Oct 222014
 

Call it the cooler fall temps and the fewer sit-outdoors-and-do-nothing kind of nights, but I got busy with my books recently.  And I fell in love with them.

I read A LOT, no question, but the recent crop of books that have come my way have been so fun to cozy up with. Check out my favorites below, and then enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post to win your very own copy of some of these books!

And remember, I always love people to read along with me on Goodreads and Pinterest (I have a specific board there for the books I’m crushing on!).

10 Books to Read this Fall @meredithspidel

 

People I Want to Punch in the Throat’s Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scrouges by Jen Mann. In short, by reading this book of essays about motherhood in suburbia, I felt more normal and laughed harder than I had in ages.  Each time I picked it up, my world seemed less crazy and I fell more head over heels for Mann.

I Heart My Little A-Holes: A bunch of holy-crap moments no one ever told you about parenting by Karen Alpert. There is a reason this book keeps hitting the New York Times bestseller list.  The accounting of a mom’s day-to-day is so real, it’s funny.  Alpert is so hysterical, you will cry.  It’s the kind of book I am gifting with abandon to all the new mothers I know–the perfect way to magically make the 3am feedings funny.

Mom of the Year by Denise Pischinger. Not a bad title, huh? ;) This book was so fun. The setting was too relatable, and it was a delight to see I read a lot @meredithspidel #booksthe worst of what “being an involved mom” can spiral into. I eagerly snuck in a few pages in the pick-up line or after kids were in bed, and found myself delighting in all the perfect chaos Pischinger offered. She’s got talent!

The Seduction of Miriam Cross (A Delilah Percy Powers Mystery) by W.A. Tyson. This book was truly a thriller! I had no idea how the mystery of Miriam Cross’ murder would resolve. Tyson kept the pages flying by, allowing the reader to escape into a wild, unfamiliar world.  Looking forward to reading more of her work ASAP!

My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends edited by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger. Wow. This is something most of us have experienced, but so rarely discuss. The courage these gifted authors have in openly sharing their stories is an encouragement that helps bite away the sting that the hurt of losing a friend often leaves. I applaud their bravery and honesty!

Motherhood May Cause Drowsiness: Funny Stories by Sleepy Moms edited by Lisa Nolan. I have often wondered if I should see a doctor about the fact that I am perpetually exhausted. Then I read this book and remembered I’m a mom. I love the way these ladies made the reality of motherhood laugh-worthy while also clearly showing how deeply they love their kids. I also love that the next morning while I was falling asleep over my cup of coffee, I didn’t feel like a spaaz.  Thanks, ladies!

My Gentle Barn by Ellie Laks. I had never heard of The Gentle Barn before, but am now understanding what a tremendous movement Laks has started.  Through her endless compassion towards animals, the hope packed into every page of this book is inspiring.

The Realm of Possibility by Dan Dalmonte. I had the pleasure of meeting Dan in person and was delighted with his enthusiasm for the art of writing. His dedication to his work is so evident in the detail and creativity in this novel, the story of a man who meets a world wildly open with possibilities–and all the complications they bring. An incredibly captivating and engaging read.

Totlandia by Josie Brown. I love escaping with a good frothy fun novel, and the Totlandia series fits this bill so well! The world Brown created with The Pacific Heights Moms & Tots Club, and uber-exclusive children’s playgroup in San Francisco is indeed packed full of “Friendship. Lies. Seduction. Betrayal.” Too much fun and so full of the drama of motherhood!  I can’t wait to read all four of these soapy treats.

Georgetown Academy by Jessica Koosed Etting and Alyssa Embree Schwartz. It’s fascinating how these two authors spin the intrigue of high school with high stakes political drama by sharing the stories of the students at Georgetown Academy, Washington D.C.’s most elite prep school.  These books were entirely entertaining and keep you eagerly reaching for the next. Unique and very cool look into a different world!

And don’t forget to follow along with our very own virtual book club!  Dig into Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed and get ready to discuss on 11/7/14! We are so excited about this book.

Enter below to win these books!

Fall Book Giveaway--win and cozy-up with some reading this fall! @meredithspidel

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Oct 202014
 

The 1-step change to finallyI love my husband a lot.  He’s a good man.  He’s a smart man.  Some of the things he says makes me want to scream. Sometimes I do scream.

You see, he has this lovely gift of practicality and perspective. God decided to skip those traits in me.  I got ginormous thighs and a bent towards being ferociously emotional instead.

Often the things that I’m most passionately frustrated over my husband eradicates with a simple sentence. This is both a gift and highly annoying.

Most recently, I’ve had my panties in a bunch over my perceived lack of hours in the day. One particular evening, channeling my inner-Caillou, I broke into a rather heated whining rant, “There is just no way I can get everything done! I am slamming out every second of the day and still can’t keep up…I can’t keep doing this.”

My husband answered easily, “Then don’t.”

The screeching as my mind did an about-face was almost audible.  Whaaa?? “What in the world do you mean?”

“Stop. God didn’t design your life to be this way, tired and stressed all the time.  There are 24 hours in a day, and if you can’t get everything done you need to in that time, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Scary red flags of indignation started waving wildly.  How dare he? Who does he think will drop his children off at school and wash the excessive number of dishes he insists on dirtying? Would his boxer shorts start washing and folding themselves?

I huffed away. I was right, and he was wrong, of course. Certain of his cruel insensitivity to the magnitude of responsibility I shoulder each day, I thought loads of helpful thoughts, like “Typical man!” and “He will never get it!”

My thoughts weren’t wrong; he is a man, and no, he won’t get it–just as I will never fully get his work.  But, as it turns out, as I allowed my rage to chill (frantic slamming of pots and pans around the kitchen always helps), he wasn’t wrong either.

In fact, he was very right.  Right in the punch-me-in-the-gut kind of way.

Crap. Darn. Shoot. I loathe it when he’s right. I more loathe it when it’s time to revamp my way of thinking because I’ve been completely wrong.

When your husband is right @meredithspidel

For days, for months, for years even, I have been approaching each day as a beast to be tackled. Something that if I plan just a little bit more, a little bit harder, I can form it into something smoother. Maybe even easier?

Wrong. The truth is, this life is never going to quit. There will always be another task that needs to be done and another ask from someone seeking something. Whether it’s my children needing their bums wiped or the Home and School committee looking for Book Fair volunteers, it’s never going to end.

I will always have a to-do list.

It will always be long.

I won’t get it all crossed off.  As long as I’m living and engaging in life, I’ll never get it all crossed off.

Huh.

So this is just the way life is.  And last I checked, there were no plans to add more hours to the day. And God is pretty darn wise; He knew what He was doing when He designed this whole ball game. 24 hours was and is the length of our day–the way it was meant to be.

Knowing that the circumstances of busyness nor daily time limitations won’t change, it appears there may be a distinct truth to my husband’s words. If the circumstances aren’t going to change, that means I have to change.

I don’t know how to make my days or my lists manageable, but I can handle waking up every day, and saying a silent prayer, “I don’t know how to do this. Let what is important get done. Help me not to panic about the rest–or at least send a sturdy paper bag my way to breathe in.”

And do you know what? When I do this, when I say this prayer, when I finally let go, the frenzy of the day dissipates.

No, my to-do list doesn’t magically shrink. There are no sweet miniature helper elves who come to my aid. Darn. But I am able to put one foot in front of the other.  And somehow the important things, the really important things manage to get done.

So that is my secret, my trick to finally, for once and for all, not allowing your to-do list to dominate your life. Let go of it. Allow a peace to prevail.

It’s a choice and you can do it–paper bag in hand if you need it ;)

 

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Oct 082014
 

How to be a mom and do yoga @meredithspidel Bikram YogaA couple months ago, I got it in my head that I wanted to do hot yoga.  I told my husband; he thought I was insane. I looked to my sister for support; her eyes just got very large and she carefully went silent. Huh. This was going to have to be one of those Meredith-is-crazy kind of situations.

Oh well.

Because I wasn’t abandoning my idea.  I’ve talked before about the neck and back pain I struggle with, and my desire to lose weight and firm up a bit.

And I did my research. I became convinced that yoga would help me, specifically that done in a heated studio.  When my muscles are warm, I get all wonderfully loosey-goosey, everything stretches out and things don’t hurt so much. After reading up, I was sure yoga would help me become leaner, tone my muscles, and most importantly, reduce my pain.

I found local Bikram Yoga studio (Bikram Yoga is a type of hot yoga, if you are unfamiliar) and contacted the owner of Bikram Yoga of Exton, Kristin Sapp, “Are you willing to put up with my ineptness? I have never done yoga in my life, and will probably fall on the floor–A LOT.”

Kristin, as it turns out, is lovely.  More than lovely, she is kind and encouraging, and welcomed me with open arms. She reassured me that beginners are always welcome in her studio and that no experience is necessary.

Okay, then.  It was time to roll with this!

I decided on the 5:30am session.  Because I am insane. Also, because, of course, otherwise squeezing exercise into a day with young kids can be a bit of a challenge…

I slept in my yoga outfit to cut one step out of my morning prep and also to increase likelihood I would actually scoot my butt out the door on time.  Yoga mat, towel and water bottle in hand, I headed off.

Having no clue what to expect, I was delighted to find that Kristin was as friendly in person as she had seemed, and I love that she patiently explained each step–from where to put my shoes to where to lay out my mat.

I was pretty sure the room would be filled with young moms who would judge me for my less-than-perfectionism.  I was wrong.  The other students were…normal people.  Albeit far more fit and less likely to repetively topple to the floor than me, they were men and women of all ages and stages. No one laughed or pointed fingers, and afterwards, I got loads of congrats for finishing my first class.  Aw, I know!

Yes, the studio was quite hot.

The poses and stretches? Hard. Very hard.

Mom leaving for yoga early in the morning @meredithspidelAfterwards, I didn’t feel awesome.  Kristin explained that it can take your body a while to adjust and start to benefit and feel great.

My muscles hurt the next day.

But…but…when I called my sister that night and she asked me how it went, I told her that even if for some reason I repeated the experience (I would and I did), I had just done one of the most boss things in my life.

I dragged myself out of bed at 4:45am, drove across town, walked into a class of people I had never met, stripped down to minimal clothing, and pushed my body through some of the hardest exercises I have ever done for 90 minutes in 104 degree heat.  And I didn’t die.

This is what was boss.

This is why I am proud of myself.

And this is why I went back. Because I can, and it will help me. It’s been a week now, and I can’t say what a delight it is to hold my neck up high and turn it without wincing in pain.  For me, this is nothing short of phenomenal.

This is the "After" shot of my first session.  It was going well...

This is the “After” shot of my first session. It was going well, obviously…

Loads of other weird things are happening too. I felt leg muscles in the shower this morning. I was pretty bouncy with energy a few mornings. And perhaps most unexpected, the other day I found myself actually listening to a song in the van–you know, actually listening to the song without going over the store list in the back of my mind.  They say yoga helps with mental clarity.  I just never imagined that it actually would.

I also never imagined that I’d actually get myself to a class in the first place, moreover enjoy it. But hey, as Kristin told me before I first met her, it’s all about keeping an open mind. Sometimes you might just surprise yourself.

Bikram Yoga of Exton @meredithspidel

Tremendous thanks to Bikram Yoga of Exton for providing me with class time and instruction so I can pursue this journey to wellness, and for being such a welcoming place to do it!  All of the staff have been incredible supportive and encouraging, and I am eager for continued change and growth.

Readers, I look forward to checking back in with you and updating you on my progress.  

Namaste and thanks for always allowing me to be a work in progress!

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Oct 032014
 

Book Club meeting for The Memory Box @meredithspidelRemember a month ago when Carrie of Normal Level of Crazy and I announced we were starting a book club? Yeah, I know–this sounds intimidating.

But fear not. All this means is that Carrie and I love to read. And we like each other and live really close.  So we decided to pick a book once a month to read together and chat about. Over margaritas, obviously.

But the book lovin’ doesn’t end with our escaping our families over baskets of corn chips.  We want to share this book club with you!

Each month we will announce our next book, invite you to read it with us, and then chat about it on the first Friday.  Please leave any questions or thoughts about the book below or on social media–we want to hear from you!

For our first meeting, we read The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello, and as a very special treat, we got to FaceTime with her at our meeting to chat about the book!

Eva was a delight who patiently tolerated all of our endless questions about her writing process and the book itself. She didn’t even once roll her eyes or ask us to please shut up.  So, of course, we now have girl crushes on her.

As for the book…

The Memory Box book club with Eva Lesko NatielloThe Memory Box is a “gripping domestic thriller” about privileged suburbian motherhood gone wrong…very wrong.  Read the full description of the book here.

Carrie and I were both taken by how relatable some elements of Caroline’s life were…what parts of this motherhood world are craziest to you? Could you see yourself in any of the book’s characters?

Yet, we were blown away by the ending (agreeing that it was this twist that made the book unforgettable).  What do you think of Caroline’s choices? Do you ever shock yourself with the lengths you go to in pursuit of maintaining your chosen lifestyle?

We were baffled by how clueless her husband remained throughout the story.  But yet, how easy is it to keep secrets from a spouse?  How many couples do lead lives secret from their partners?

As for Eva herself…

Isnt she adorably approachable?

Isn’t she adorably approachable?

Eva awed and encouraged us as we learned that she wrote the entire book in the years of having young kids.  She talked about never leaving the house without a black and white composition book so she could take advantage of any spare moments to write.  Yes, she wrote her novel old-school, by hand.

Aside from her refusal to let the busyness of life prevent her from writing, Eva discussed the importance of believing in your own work, despite any rejection that you might meet along the way.  She spoke of how her writing gave her a purpose in the years she could have become lost after leaving the coorporate world and redefining herself.  I can’t say how inspiring this was for both Carrie and me.

It was also fun to hear that after Eva read Gone Girl, she was motivated to push the The Memory Box into publication (she had written it years before). Similar elements, specifically of the primary character being both the protagonist and antagonist are evident in both books, and it’s exciting to see this specific genre of thriller novels take flight.

Because Eva is cool…

She is going to send one of you a The Memory Box prize pack! Enter the Rafflecopter below for chances to win a beautiful keepsake box filled with “goodies” (I have heard rumors of Snowballs being included…!).  As long as you are 18 or older and live in the continental U.S., you are eligible to win.

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And then, after you enter to win this gift from Eva and share your thoughts about The Memory Box with us, snatch up next month’s pick, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, and read along with us!

As the book is described on Strayed’s website, “At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.”

We can’t wait to chat up this book with you in November!  And yes, the movie with Reese Witherspoon is coming out in December (12/5/2014), so get a jump on this latest book-to-movie now!  Maybe even go crazy a plan a Girls Night Out with some friends to catch the movie when it hits theaters??

And always, always–happy reading, friends!

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Sep 262014
 

Tri County Chiropractic Massage Adjustment @meredithspidel @DrKennedyTCCI have lived most of my adult life with pain.  Neck pain, back pain, headaches–all too familiar.  Yuck.  It hurts.

Yet I remain very wary of any medication that might tax the liver.  I’ve become invested in alternative pain-reduction methods.  Chiropractic care and massage?  Right up my alley.

When I saw the Groupon deal for Tri-County Chiropractic, I Googled it right up.  It got superb reviews.  It was close to our home.  Why not?  I decided to give it a go and snatched up the deal.

This deal-grabbing happened a year ago.  Since my first visit, I have fallen head over heals for Dr. Kennedy and her staff.  Dr. Kennedy and the rest of the Tri-County Chiropractic of Exton staff are committed to providing chiropractic solutions to address your unique needs, whether you are experiencing back pain, neck pain, headaches, or even muscular tightness and tension.

She’s so excellent at meeting you where you are and helping you attain improved wellness and health.  But it’s not only her extreme competence and skill with adjusting my spine, it’s the fact that she’s nice.

That she has young kids of her own, is so easy to chat with and gets it.

That the office looks so pretty and smells relaxing.

Tri County Chiropractic Treatment Room @DrKennedyTCC @meredithspidel

That her massage staff have tackled the knots in my neck with incredible expertise.

Tri County Chiropractic Massage Room @DrKennedyTCC @meredithspidel

That each chiropractic adjustment includes heat therapy, muscle stimulation (if needed), and a mini-massage to loosen things up.  Yes, this means I lie with my head face-down for 20 minutes and am forced to do nothing.  It totally sucks, I know.

But listen, don’t just take my word for it, read this testimonial (and read many more glowing reviews) on their website:

“Dr. Kennedy and her staff are the BEST. I can’t say enough good things about them. They treat you like family when you come in. They are attentive to your needs and I do not rush the adjustment process. Starting with the massage, heat, and electrical muscle stimulation…I feel like I am at a spa instead of a doctor’s office. I would highly recommend Tri-County Chiropractic in Exton. They will take amazing care of you.”
–Carrie G

I am incredibly impressed with Tri-County Chiropractic of Exton and am very grateful to have connected with them as a patient.  Check out all that they have to offer and follow along with Dr. Kennedy’s savvy on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest.

And then…enter below to win a massage!  That’s right, a free 1/2 hour massage is up for grabs!  While I sit here and try to figure out ways to unethically win my own giveaway, throw your name in the hat and get ready for the most relaxing and healing 30 minutes of your life…yes, it’s that awesome, truly.

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Go snag your own wellness and health, friends.  Pain doesn’t have to be a way of life.  There are wonderfully talented people like Dr. Kennedy who can help get you back in shape and feeling better.

*****Thank you to the staff of Tri-County Chiropractic of Exton for sponsoring this post and giveaway.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my very positive experience!****

Sep 042014
 

Baths with kids? Not always a shining success. @meredithspidelI would be lying if I said this whole starting school business wasn’t slaying me.  After I finished supporting the Kleenex industry on the first day, I did figure on a general schedule upheaval.  I assumed my son would be more tired than usual.  I did not, however, count on how emotionally rocked we would all be by things like erroneous pencil grips, bus seating arrangements, and the tricky necessity of afternoon rest periods.

Nor did I figure that this would be one of the times in my life when I would entirely lose my capacity for reasonable thought.  It started on the eve of the First Day of School. I burned my hand trying to steam green beans, cried and vowed to never again serve veggies to my family.  This adorable inability to perform simple tasks continued throughout the week.  In short, I became stupid.

In this delightful state of mind, I found myself on my birthday morning, decidedly unbathed with yucky morning breath.  But I had gotten my son on the bus!  On time!

Feeling cocky from this intense victory, I became foolish.  What if I celebrated my day and tackled my grossness with a bath?!

I could do this, right??

Moms need to relax too! Not an easy thing, but we'll keep trying for it, right?  Someday those baths will happen!

I felt like I was running a covert op for the CIA.  I cued up Daniel Tiger, stashed up my daughter with Goldfish crackers and spoke in soft tones, lest I disturb the gods of potential baths.  I crept up the stairs, turned on the faucet, shut the door, and sank under the suds.

The door immediately slammed back open. My daughter walked in with That Face. She didn’t!  But in one sinking moment, I knew that she had.  She had pooped in her underwear.  Endless curses on this potty-training nonsense. Wear diapers until you are 25, for the love of God.

That situation, very wet and very nakedly, sorted out and I found myself back in the bath.  Albeit, a great deal grumpier.

Woe, the tragic injustice of electively having children and then having to care for them…

I relaxed back into the warm water, closed my eyes and worked to listen to the sweet silence of nothing.  I heard a small voice, “Mommy, can I watch you?”

My eyes flew open. “Um…sure?”

Does the lock on the bathroom door not work?  What insane person is running this house?

“I’ll help wash your hair.”

Excellent.

“Can I help with the razor?”

I madly searched for a paper bag in which to commence proper hyperventilation.

“I’ll draw pictures of the ocean for you!”

I especially enjoy the teal bathtub crayon, as it dyes everything a lovely aqua hue for at least a solid 24 hrs.

I love my kids. I do. A lot.

I also love baths.

Someday, perhaps, in the near 15 years, the suds and I will meet up again.

For now, it is certain that I must be locked in padded rooms whenever my children start Kindergarten vs. being allowed to make any decisions–at all.

The good news: I’ve got a “helper” who works a mean shampoo service.  And really, my skin is the most pretty shade of teal…

 

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Second image credit: depositphotos.com, ID:13961653,copyright:Goodluz

Aug 132014
 

Every Mom Needs a Break; score those 15 minutes! @meredithspidelI have gone on before, at length, about how much I crush on our deck.  It truly is a lovely place.  I often consider moving in out back.  Maybe I won’t dramatically dismantle and relocate our bed, but I could set up a nice cot or something.  Maybe get a sweet lava lamp and milk crate night stand to set the mood?

The thing is, I love the deck, but moreover, I crush on SOLITUDE.  I don’t think I actively started craving this bliss until it was gone.  I love my privacy, I love my peace.  I love being able to think a thought and hear it in my own head without Daniel Tiger jingling a catchy tune in the background (though, dang, I do love that little dude–he’s adorable, smart, and does a far better job of raising my children than I ever will).

You may remember when I fell in love with a personality test several months ago.  And then talked about it endlessly ad nauseum and refused to shut up about it.  Why was I so taken with this quiz?  It defined me.  It reinforced that my need to be alone wasn’t some bizarre quirk, but rather an inherent component of my being, that was, in fact, part of an established personality type.  Ahhh…

Sweet revelation, but not a whole lot of room to go anywhere with it.  I was and am still up to my ears in Pull-Ups, messy dog drool, and kids who still can’t unpeel the plastic from their own Lunchables (again, I am Mom of the Year here).  While my husband feeds on being around others and socializing (doesn’t Dr. J’s peppy friendliness just exude this??), I am an introvert.  And I like being an introvert.

I try not to be stupid, to recognize there is stuff about every age and stage that will trip me up.  I do talk to friends with older kids and know that things, so many things, will get trickier.  That said, I remain convinced that one of the pleasures of this particular phase of my kids is that I am never alone.  There are no silly things like naps or entire days of school.  Nor is there the decided joy of peeing alone.  We get to be together all the time!

Yay!

So here I remain, fantastically longing to be near NO ONE, but in fact, solidly running show as a trio–from sun-up to sun-down.  That’s fine; I chose to have kids and I love them.  But…

One day, one singular unique day, I thought, “Why not?  Let’s let Daniel Tiger earn his keep.”  I cued up Netflix, plunked lollipops in their hands (again, Mom of the Year), and slipped out to the deck with my laptop.

I felt covert.

I felt sneaky and smart.

I felt awesome.  I was alone.  I did all sorts of sordid thing like checking my Facebook status and writing a new post.  It was fabulous.  It lasted approximately 19 minutes.

Not exactly enough time to write one’s life story, but oh well….we’re on our way, and isn’t the direction in life the only thing that really matters?

Aug 062014
 

Clothes Mentor West Chester @meredithspidelMy husband has adapted very well, with a general acceptance, to my endless string of crushes.  These crushes range in subject from Jesse Pinkman to new TV shows (Orange is the New Black, anyone??) to an incredibly pretty shade of Urban Decay lipstick.  Most recently, my fashion obsessions have been raging, finding exciting territory in StitchFix, maxi skirts and collectively, anything found in People Style Watch.

The only slightly sticky wicket of all my fascinations is that they cost money. Snap! It just feels like rocking out sweet styles should be a given freebie or something, right?

Mmhhh…sadly, looking gorgeous isn’t necessarily an easy no-cost-given on this earth.  Enter Clothes Mentor.  Self-advertised as “a huge walk-in closet for fashionable women”, I started swooning immediately upon learning of this local shop.  I have long been in love with consignment and re-sale.  The truth?  I like brand-names and adorable stuff, but our still-paying-endless-school-debt/WAHM salary doesn’t allow for a lot of first-pass Kate Spade and Micheal Kors.

I like Kate Spade and Michael Kors.

A lot.

So it was time for a Clothes Mentor-intervention.  Could my budget really meet my high-brow taste?

Shopping at Clothes Mentor @meredithspidelI grabbed my friend Sara for the Christmas in July sale and we were off to discover the depths of money-saving/brand-name snagging glory at the West Chester location of Clothes Mentor.

And…Holy Cow!

I was wowed by how huge the store was and how very-filled the racks were.  Throw in a brand-new Free People dress in my size? I was swooning. It wasn’t entirely pretty.  When the Ann Taylor new-with-tags dress entered the scene, the drooling got rather intense.

This store was HUGE and packed to the gills with sweet finds.  Moreover?  The staff was so very friendly and helpful.

In Main Line suburbia, there are a boatload of excellent consignment shop finds, but the pleasure of uncovering a store that not only has so many nifty items but also excels in customer service?  I’m a goner.

Check out this sweet staff...ready to help you! Carrie, Juli & Aly...at your service!

Check out this sweet staff…ready to help you! Carrie, Juli & Aly…at your service!

I have already scheduled my return to Clothes Mentor in my personal calendar and am counting down the days to my next visit.  I’m also sort-of crushing on an adorable brown leather clutch I saw in the shop, but don’t tell my husband this; cool?

Clothes Mentor @meredithspidel

As the Clothes Mentor website says, “Clothes Mentor is a resale store like you’ve never seen before.  At 70% off mall prices, we carry current women’s fashions in sizes 0-4x, plus athletic wear, petites and maternity–with thousands of better name-brand clothes under one roof. We also carry jewelry, handbags, shoes, wallets, belts and so much more! You’ll find a huge designer selection, from handbags to jewelry.”

Clothes Mentor is also a great place to sell any extra items you may have: “How do we build our fabulous inventory of like-new women’s fashions? By paying our customers CASH-on-the-spot all day, EVERY day for their items…We understand that life changes–so bring those fashions that no longer fit, whether they are the wrong size or just don’t fit your personality any more.”

The selection was endless...

The selection was endless…

Ready to try Clothes Mentor for yourself?  Locally, they have shops in both West Chester and Springfield, but check out their shops nationally.  And the owner of the local stores, Chris, is so very cool.  She is offering one of my readers a free retail therapy party.  What is a retail therapy party and why is it such a neat event?

Local shop owner Chris explains her philosophy, “Clothes Mentor is a store based on a community of women.  Women who support each other and who empower each other—no matter how big your budget or how important your job, everyone is on a level playing field in our store and our team makes you feel like royalty even if you are not.  Women do not spend enough time building each other up.  We need a place to celebrate and throw “attaboys” at each other—with a high-five and a butt bump or two!  Here is what the give-away of a retail therapy party for 6 or more includes:

  1.  Appetizers and beverages of choice
  2. Personal stylist assigned to the party to help with outfit/clothing selection and to help with party set up.  This stylist will support the entire party at the dressing rooms to make trying on clothes easier and will take photos to share with the hostess after the party.
  3. 20% discount for everyone who attends the party—but there is no requirement to shop or to buy, just come and have a fun evening out with girlfriends.
  4. If the party (at either the Springfield or West Chester store) is scheduled before September 1, the hostess also receives a $25 shopping credit to use during the party.”

I love the way this party is set-up as a way for women to celebrate each other and enjoy some fun with fashion!  Are you also swayed? Ready to check out Clothes Mentor for yourself?  Enter to win this retail therapy package!  Pop in the Rafflecopter below.*  

Another great reason to head to Clothes Mentor soon?  Chris is also offering all my readers a 20% discount through September 1 if you mention “The Mom of the Year” at checkout!

Friends, when isn’t it time to update your wardrobe?  Having some fun, new, affordable cool clothes and accessories is within reach.  Go find your inner-fashionista at Clothes Mentor.  Fall in love with a new item…or two or a bunch.  I’ll be here cheering on all of your adventurous money-saving shopping from the comfort of my jazzy new leopard-print pants!

Appalling, I know.  But I really like that consignment-pricing afforded me the chance to rock these pants that I would never have otherwise-looked at...

Love that consignment-pricing afforded me the chance to snag these pants that I otherwise wouldn’t have even tried on!

And make sure to follow Clothes Mentor on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to stay tuned on the latest store items and events!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*E-mail addresses entered in Rafflecopter will be added to Clothes Mentor’s mailing list.

Our total haul? 7 (yes, SEVEN!) dresses (tags still on Ann Taylor and Free People), 2 pair of shoes, 2 pair of earrings, and a pair of jeans and a pair of pants for $119!

Our total brand-name haul? 7 (yes, SEVEN!) dresses (tags still on Ann Taylor and Free People), 2 pair of shoes, 2 pair of earrings, a pair of jeans and a pair of pants for $119!

****Clothes Mentor has compensated me for reviewing their store, but my awe of their business remains 100% genuine!****

Jul 232014
 

International Self-Care Day @meredithspidel #selfcareday14 #OTCSafetyDid you know that International Self-Care Day is July 24?  I’m all for the big holidays of the year, but in my opinion, we should raise the roof for this particular day.

Self-care is so very important, especially as a momma.  Caring for young kids is an endless task.  And while I would do anything to keep my kids safe, fed, and feeling loved, sometimes I look at the magnitude of the task and just feel…exhausted.

To me, being Supermom means being able to ignore the piles of laundry long enough to take a second and feel good about at least a couple things that happened that day–even if it was just remembering your daughter’s sippy cup and stashing the preschool payment in the mail before it was too obscenely late.  It’s hard; I want to ace this gig out, but the pace can be stymieing.  That’s why self-care is so valuable.

I am a firm believer that in order to care for others, we must first care for ourselves.  That can be a really, really hard thing to do as a mom. Oftentimes we have to sneak it in the corners of everything else.  Oftentimes while we long for a spa day and solid nap, we only have time to pour ourselves a fresh glass of water or steal two extra seconds in the shower.  However you do it, it’s vital to refresh and rejuvenate to gain the energy needed to be there for our kids.

Before becoming an OTCSafety Ambassador, I hadn’t considered managing medications to be part of my self-care routine.  The World Health Organization defines self-care: “what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle, environmental factors, socioeconomic factors, and self-medication. “

Huh.  Go figure that all those vitamins and supplements I stuff in my fridge are a way of loving on myself.

Have medicines or other pills in your home?  Make sure they are a healthy part of your own self-care regimen.  Mark a date on your calendar to go through your medicine cabinet and get rid of anything expired, and of course, make sure to keep everything up and out of the hands of kids.  And consider if there’s a supplement that might benefit you or your family.  If you are responsible about your meds, they are a super-easy way to sneak in some self-care!

To help further explain the value of self-care and give us some cool ideas for how to do it, I got the input of some very smart ladies about what self-care means to them.  The smart, real ways they embrace this concept are down-right inspiring:

Jenn of Coolest Family on the Block–“As a mega introvert above all else “self care” means quiet alone time.”

Kathy of My Dishwasher’s Possessed–“For me I find writing a few things that I’m grateful for has the power to instantly change my mindset. When I do it, not only does my day improve, but the whole mood in my family changes. When I don’t it’s not very pretty here!”

Jenn of Something Cleaver 2.0–“Since my son was born, my husband and I have had a deal: I get to sleep until 10 on Saturdays, and he sleeps until 10 on Sundays. As parents, it’s important to have one day a week where we don’t get up earlier than the birds!”

Kristen–“Self-care is being late to my therapist because I took an extra 5 minutes in the shower to shave my legs – life is full of choices!

Stephanie of When Crazy Meets Exhaustion–“I used to think healthy meant a killer bod; since having kids, healthy means being able to keep up with them. So I don’t have the abs of my former self? But I can play a mean game of street hockey and a mind-numbing game of princesses.”

Kathy of Kissing the Frog–“Nowadays, self-care simply means doing something that makes me happy. It could be a long walk, it could be reading a novel, it could be writing something I’m really proud of, it could be lunch with friends or dinner alone with Hubby, or a spa service all by myself. Stephanie Barone Jankowski is right, the definition of self-care changes after motherhood and the demands on one’s time.”

Adrienne–“Extra minute in the shower. Plucking my eyebrows. Painting my nails once in a blue moon. Being alone, being with others. Walking/Running. Spa days with my sister :)”

Janine of Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic–“I admit I probably don’t take care of myself as much as I should will be pulled in so many different directions daily, but the one thing I do try to make time for is a quick workout when I can and even (I know it may sound crazy) but doing my nails, just polishing them myself makes me feel a bit better and it is the quiet alone time that does it for me…”

Meredith of From Meredith to Mommy–“ I take a bubble bath with a book almost every night. It’s how I relax and unwind from being “on” all day. Productive use of child free time? No, but a happy mom is a better mom!”

Jessica of Domestic Pirate–“I think self-care evolves with us. When I had an amazing support system and my depression was under control, self care meant working out, eating well, and writing every day for me. Now? It means showering whenever I get the chance, giving myself the green light to sit and take my time to enjoy my coffee in the morning, and getting out of the house by myself at least once a week.”

Kari of Rhymes with Sorry–“I think “self care” is very fluid, because every person has different needs, just like the difference between extroverts and introverts.”

Melanie of The Not So Super Mom–“‘Self care’ always makes me think of hygiene or a beauty routine. Since (for me) there is no such thing as a beauty routine, sometimes those extra minutes in the shower/bathroom make all the difference. Showering without rushing, shaving my whole legs (not just below the knee)…”

Laura of Squeezed Fresh 4U–“Self-care to me, means making sure I get the people I take care of…to pay attention to me, too. To know that, hey yeah I just cooked all the last meals, been doing the dishes…and now it’s your turn.”

Amanda of Questionable Choices in Parenting–“Now that I’m a mom, self care tends to be my last priority but I’m working on changing this. The truth is, if Mommy gets sick, this whole ship goes down! So I’m eating better, working out, and finding time to get to doctors appointments.”

Jennifer of Outsmarted Mommy–“I can often be seen running with my ipod smiling like I slept with a hanger in my mouth. It’s not pretty but man alive does it relieve my stress. A less stressed mom makes for happier children. :)”

Love Yourself Self-care Smart Advice @meredithspidel

I hope you caught the important message that how self-care looks is different for everyone.  Notice too how several of these ladies noted that the way we self-care is not stagnant; it will change as we grow and move through life.  But whatever you figure out works for you, do it!

 

Join us on International Self-Care Day to redefine the notion of SuperMom as being a mom who takes the time to care for herself. And let us how YOU care for yourself below.  Jump on the self-care bandwagon–it’s a very cool place to be!

****I am compensated as an OTCsafety blogging ambassador for this post, but my opinion are my own.****

Image credit: Depositphotos.com, ID:10657169, copyright:PixelsAway

Jul 072014
 

MomAssembly @momassembly @meredithspidleIf I had to guess my most oft-said phrase in my parenting journey, “I’m losing my mind” would probably go for the win.  From the moment my son let loose his first wail, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of being completely clueless.

I had read all the books.  I had friends. I even managed to find the phone under some of the piles of burp cloths so I could call them. I still felt alone.  I still felt lost.  I still longed for someone to hold my hand and tell me exactly what to do.

Five years later, I now have a daughter in addition to my son, but overall, there are far less diapers to change and food doesn’t need cut in quite as small pieces.  It’s a bit less never-being-able-to-sleep-more-than-an-hour-at-a-time, but there are other fun things.  Like trying to figure out discipline and making decisions about preschool.

The truth is, I don’t feel like I know anything more than when I first started being a mom.  I have questions every day.  I find myself longing for an instruction manual…

Enter MomAssembly, the world’s first online video-education site for moms.  It’s an interactive university, available 24-7 from the comfort of your home, that gives you all the information you need to raise happy, healthy kids. Whether you are interested in child-oriented topics like baby development, sleep or behavior or want to focus on more parent-focused goals like finding work/family balance, losing the baby weight or childproofing your marriage, it’s all there. MomAssembly was co-founded in 2012 by Jill Spivack, LCSW and Jennifer Waldburger, MSW , who have nearly two decades of experience as family and parent educators.  These ladies are experts at knowing what help moms need, and they are bringing it to you in this incredibly convenient format.

I’ll admit, when I first heard of  MomAssembly, I was a bit skeptical.  A site full of expert parenting video courses sounds fantastic, but the idea of taking a course was somewhat intimidating.  Would there be grades?  Was there a weekly schedule to keep up with?  Exams?  I have trouble finding time to shower, so wasn’t sure if I could handle going back to school.

But how wrong I was.  MomAssembly couldn’t be easier.  There are no exams, schedules, or grades.  It is super user-friendly.  You log into the site, and the menu of courses immediately pops up.  You click on the age and stage of your children, and all the available courses of interest appear. To take a course, you click on it and then press the play button.

@MomAssembly @meredithspidel

Courses are broken up into class segments, average of about 8 classes per course.  Each class is typically around 5-10 minutes.  You can start and stop them at any time. Read: sippy cup emergency?  Hit the pause button and it’s fine.  Come back when you can–or wait a few hours (or even days if need be!) and come back when you can.

I love that the courses are audio-friendly, meaning that I can set-up my laptop on the kitchen counter while I attack the dishes and still take my classes.  If you’re a bit more modern than my old school self, you can also snatch up the learning from your phone/iPad/etc while you are on the go.  It’s all online, so whatever is easiest for you.

The price of this assistance is minimal.  For only $7.99/mo., you receive access to over 500 classes, over 50 downloadable handouts & workbooks, and you can add up to 4 family members & caregivers to your account for free.  Ready to sign up for the whole year?  It’s only $3.99/month with the annual plan!  Both options come with a 7 day free trial to make sure than MomAssembly is a good fit you.

And as a special offer to my readers, the first 10 Mom Of The Year readers who sign up for a MomAssembly plan from THIS LINK will get their first month of membership free!

Mom Assembly‘s user-friendliness is fantastic, but my favorite part of the courses is that they soothe me.  I know, this might sound a bit odd, but it’s true.  The first course I took was Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting 101.  More than any other course, this title appealed to me (My stress level of late managing my 2 and 5 yr. old has a “bit” high), so I eagerly selected this course.  As I listened to the the instructor speak, I felt myself relax, normalize, if you will.  I was feeling like someone got me and was giving me welcome advice on how to manage my life better.

Once I started, I kept taking more and more courses as I realized how helpful the classes were.  Raising Children that Other People Like to Be Around?  Yes, please!  Please help me figure out a way for my kids not to be the weird ones at social gatherings.  Coping with Preschool Panic may actually be more for me than them, but my family needs this course.  It’s a really hard and sad/happy things sending your kiddos off to school for the first time and I’ll take any help I can get.

And The Discipline Do’s and Don’t’s course has been a blessing–am I the only one who never received the clear instruction manual on how to raise kids?? Check out one of the classes from this course for a sample of how MomAssembly works:

Remember my longing for an instruction manual?  This quote from MomAssembly sold me, “Good news! Babies do come with instructions!”.  The truth is, as a new mom, as a current mom of toddlers/preschoolers, this remains the promise I most want to hear.

Thanks to MomAssembly, the instruction manual is here, and I am grateful.  So, so grateful.

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