Jan 192016
 

Go make your life better with this Happy Mommy Course! Smart, hands-on practical steps you can take in the midst of your busy days to find happiness and sanity in your life. The tips are surprisingly easy and the freebie included here is incredible! Go make time for your self-care!A friend who helps you grow is a boss blessing on this earth. Someone who helps you be a little kinder or laugh a little more, feel calmer in the scary storms of this life, or learn something smart and new? A true gift.

I have a friend who does these things in spades, and she wows me. Julie Bel Conner inspires me so much with her sweet friendship and talented life coaching skills. I have shared before about the incredible experience I’ve had as one of her clients, and her savvy perspective was also featured here in this post about a cool life-changing trick that will benefit all of us.

What I haven’t shared is all of the behind-the-scenes support Julie pours into my life. I will call her when things feel too scattered and panicky and she immediately offers clear, solid direction to help dose sanity into my days. She knows and understands what my ultimate goals in this life are and always helps me progress in the direction of achieving them. One of my favorite things about Julie is that she has been through the fires of life, and she gets it. She gets how hard it is to put one foot in front of the other sometimes.

This smart woman, who will be the first to admit her yoga pants are smeared with peanut butter and her house is pocketed with elements of chaos, has her crap together. Yup, she has her crap together in a powerful way that so many of us do not: she knows what is important in this life and that is what she focuses on as she lives her daily life. The superficial things are let go so she can tend to what matters. Julie genuinely commits to finding, knowing and celebrating joy in her home and in her life with her children.

While I aspire to the ideals of peace, serenity, and happiness, Julie actively lives her life in pursuit of making the goals part of her day-to-day. And she does it well. That’s why she’s a talented life coach, and that’s why she’s got a ton to teach us.

I am thrilled to announce that she is now offering a…(wait for the fantastic title, because it rocks)…Happy Mommy Course. I can’t say how much I love the name of this course, because it says it all. Because when you get down to it, that’s the basis of what we moms really want: to be happy with our kids. Julie gets this, and that is why she has designed an entire course to help you get there.

Go make your life better with this Happy Mommy Course! Smart, hands-on practical steps you can take in the midst of your busy days to find happiness and sanity in your life. The tips are surprisingly easy and the freebie included here is incredible! Go make time for your self-care!

Even cooler than the title is the design of the course. First of all, it’s all digital (yay for being able to learn in our jammies!). Secondly, it’s broken up into four videos that can be viewed at a pace that works for you. While they work well when done on a weekly basis, this is not necessary. There are slides in the video that well accompany Julie’s instruction, but they don’t progress quickly, so it is very possible to take in the course while attending to one of your mundane mothering tasks (e.g., I listened to one class while washing dishes and cooking dinner).

The four classes topics are Control and Perfection, Focus on Gratitude, Communication Key, and Finding Space in Your Life. Very prevalent topics and very needed instruction to us mommies in search of greater balance and happiness!

At the end of each class, there is a (very manageable and genuinely helpful, trust me) homework assignment to help you process the material presented. Again, this can be completed at your own pace, and Julie well reinforces this in her videos. She gets what it’s like to be a crazy busy mom, really.

To cap it off, Julie offers a free 30 minute life coaching session to each participant. YOU WANT THIS. Again, trust me.

Is this course worth it? Yes. A hundred times over, yes. I say this with a sincerity and an assertiveness I reserve for those dearest to me. In fact, as I write this post, a friend just called from the midst of a very tricky, exhausting life situation. She has no bonus time to think or indulge fanciful things, yet still, I said, “I am here, I am thrilled to listen always and pray for you; also, there is a course I need you to take. I promise it will help.”

I believe the course is so wholly effective because I myself approached it with an admitted skepticism: do I really need this? I grumbled in my head about not having the time or the money, and then I took it. True story: those few hours I spent listening to Julie were some of the most peaceful I’ve had in memory.

What is the course about? Exactly what it says; Julie teaches the value of happiness in our lives as mommies, and offers practical, hands-on, well broken-down steps we can take to achieve it in the course of our busy days. As I listened, I felt myself calming as she taught the very powerful truth of sanity-saving grace. Moreover, I found her words echoing back to me days well after I’d completed the course. Her wisdom is real and it sticks.

Go make your life better with this Happy Mommy Course! Smart, hands-on practical steps you can take in the midst of your busy days to find happiness and sanity in your life. The tips are surprisingly easy and the freebie included here is incredible! Go make time for your self-care!

I think the best personal testimony I could offer is a simple event that happened after I finished the first class. Feeling freshly empowered to care for myself, I ignored the looming laundry pile and I took a nap. That I desperately needed. And I didn’t feel guilty about it.

And I knew Julie was there, cheering me on.

Go take the Happy Mommy Course, friends, and I say this because I love you. The laundry will wait.

******If it’s not clear, my high opinion of this course is 100% genuine. Thank you to Julie Bel Connor for allowing me to sample the material so I could share the Happy Mommy Course with you******

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Oct 152015
 

What's a busy mom to do when trying to make sense of her day-to-day and how to spend her time? Strive for, but don't stress over, these ten basic organizational principles that don't cost you extra time, but ultimately will give you more time in your day. #6 will leave you giggling!When I picture myself, I envision a wake of chaos flailing behind me as I stumble and fumble from one daily task to the next, usually a decent ten minutes late–for everything. You know how in Peanuts Pig-Pen was always followed by a cloud of dirt? That’s me. Except my cloud involves stupidly popped tires, lots of screaming at the kids to “Hurry up!” and piles of laundry covering the couch and mocking me. Maybe someday I’ll actually be able to use my couch as a seat.

I do not have my crap together.

Let me reinforce this: I do not have my crap together.

That said, I am an Organizer. A solid, sold-out Organizer. Recovering in different degrees depending on our life stage.

You see, my intrinsic bent is to have everything wholly in order. My pre-kid years matched up with this love for tidiness like a match made in heaven. We had a sweet thing going and then…it turns out kids require time and attention. A lot of it, to be exact. Suddenly caring for those around me and maintaining a shred of sanity became more important that making up my Christmas gift list in July (I know. Really, trust me, I know). Some days, breathing was a challenge; making neat notes in my planner was a fanciful thing of lives past.

This is why I note that I’m a Recovering Organizer. Sure, my fingers will always itch for sharp pencil points and blank note paper to sort All The Things, but the School of Young Kids has taught me that organization is a luxury, not a necessity. When I have capacity for it, it’s game on. When life is too crazy, it is possible, though not ideal, to exist within my chaotic Pig-Pen-esque cloud. It’s a careful balance of when organization will help preserve my sanity and when the sheer act of it will stress me out.

So what’s a Mom of the Year to do when trying to make sense of her day-to-day and how to spend her time? Strive for, but don’t stress over, these ten basic organizational principles that don’t cost you extra time (score! Who has extra time?), but ultimately will give you more time in your day.

What's a busy mom to do when trying to make sense of her day-to-day and how to spend her time? Strive for, but don't stress over, these ten basic organizational principles that don't cost you extra time, but ultimately will give you more time in your day. #6 will leave you giggling!

The Ten Organizational Principles of the Mom of the Year:

  1. Write it down. My mind is a sieve. Out of all these organizational principles, this is the one I am most dedicated to. Why? Because it stresses me out more attempting to hold a thought in my mind versus putting it on paper. Once it’s on paper, I can let go of it.
  2. Don’t be afraid to go small with your notations. I’ve noticed the fuller my days get, the fuller my planner gets. Not just because there are more things to do, but because I write everything down versus trying to stash it in my over-full mind. In the midst of horridly stressful semester of college, I made daily notes to myself to refill my Britta water pitcher. True that the only water source was down a long hallway and I’d often forget to do it, but still…this was insane. Yet, it was what I needed to do at the time to maintain my mental health, so it worked. Today, I make notes like “pack lunch” in my planner. It’s a teeny tiny thing, but noting it helps organize my mornings and being able to cross something off always feels boss.
  3. Keep different lists. I have a daily, a weekly, and a “dream” list. The daily is stuff I must do to keep our lives functioning–preschool drop-off and feeding the dog. The weekly list is still pretty time pressing–filling out forms for school, meeting work deadlines, etc. The dream list? Ideally I’d hit one of these items–cleaning a closet, sorting my address book, etc.–per week, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to trip up our overall functioning as a family.
  4. Note it in bulk. There are many things that I do on a rinse and repeat cycle. If I know that every Tuesday I must write my shopping list and hit the grocery store? I go ahead and write it in my planner for the next few weeks at a time.
  5. Do it NOW. With the random tasks that crop up on a day-to-day basis, don’t bother saving them for later. For example, when I get an invite in the mail, I typically RSVP right away. Rather than add another paper to my pile, I go ahead and make the call as soon as I get the invite. This saves writing yourself a reminder and having to follow up on it later.
  6. Start with the most important. Many mornings I get up and would love to dig into a blog task, but feeding my kids and getting them off to school takes precedence. This is prioritizing. Yup, many times this means the day will end without the laundry being folded, but at least what’s most important has happened, so I can rest peacefully at night.
  7. Group the like. Have a zillion errands to run? Block a morning off and knock them out. If I have a bunch of social media shares I’ve promised, I make a list, then take an hour and get them done. Keeping like tasks together helps me keep my focus and get into a zone of efficiency.
  8. Take the shortcuts. I’ve shared this a zillion times, but I’m a HUGE fan of online shopping. It saves me loads of time and money. Similarly, simple things like doubling recipes and freezing half for another meal, snagging the kids’ underwear in the next size whenever you see it on sale, or whipping clothes fresh out of the dryer to avoid ironing can seriously cut time spent on household tasks.
  9. Save the social stuff. I know, I just got done telling you to cross stuff off as soon as it presents, but social connections are a scary vortex of time suck. The pressure to respond to all the texts, emails and social media interactions can be overwhelming. I’ve started making a list of social follow-ups I need to make and then tackling the list when I get a chance to sit down with it. This makes me feel less scattered and offers a my kids a much fairer shot at getting quality attention throughout the day versus having a mom who is constantly pulled away by the ping of her phone.
  10. Know the difference between pen and pencil. Be flexible and realize things will change. For the stuff that can’t change (calling a friend to wish them happy birthday, a meeting at school, etc.), go ahead and use the pen. If it’s something that won’t shatter the earth if it happens Thursday instead of Wednesday, note it in pencil–and then give yourself the grace to shift it around as need be. Kids will get sick, appointments will run over, or some days, you’ll just be too tired to get to the things on your list. That’s okay. Really.

Do as many of these as you can, as best as you can. If your kid craps through his 4th diaper of the day and you end up having to sleep beside the laundry machine in hopes of getting through the dirty mounds of duds? Forget the organization. Just survive. Always remember that organization is a plus, but we real moms get it–and we’ve been there. Whatever level of organized chaos you’re rocking, we’re cheering you on!

 

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Oct 082015
 

Ever wonder how you REALLY can figure out this motherhood/life-living gig? You aren't alone, I promise! Get the whole inside school and smarts here.One of the trickiest parts of motherhood for me has always been the persistent question pounding through my sleep-deprived brain, “Am I doing this right?” Sure, there are friends you can ask. If you’re lucky, really good friends who can help you tackle the tough, private stuff, but still, doubt can continue to thunder on…

The truth is, this parenting gig is hard. And until you’re in it, you’ve never done it before. Throw in kids who need a lot of things, like attention and being fed and bathed and schooled and such, and connecting with others about the deeper stuff in life gets pushed to the back burner. Plus, some private stuff is just really private.

So what’s a mom, a very busy, real mom who pours her all into every day yet still feels at the end of her rope to do when the tough questions come knocking at her door?

Enter VProud.tvThank goodness, enter VProud.tv. I love that this site addresses the real issues, the things that are truly on our hearts and minds as ladies of today’s day and age. VProud.tv doesn’t beat around the bush and doesn’t mince our reality. Whether it’s kids’ behavioral issues or concerns about what’s happening (or not happening) in the bedroom, VProud.tv is there.

Their recent parntership with HelloFlo to create the new VProud.tv Masters Classes promotes this mission even more.

What are these classes?

VProud.tv seeks to empower women through their online courses that provide them with the best health information, taught by doctors and experts, accessible on any device, from the comfort of their own homes.  The classes are paid, and you can watch as many times as you like, once you subscribe.

Stop wasting your time trying to sort out the facts on Google! These courses are taught by real, educated, experienced professionals. Get the genuine information you need, straight-up.

How does it work?

Subscribe, and then watch and learn in the privacy of your own home. Yes, this means you can watch in your dirty, spit-up covered jammies and no one will know.

What are the courses about?

Six very near-and-dear topics to our mom hearts:

Struggling with fertility and managing your pregnancies? Here is REAL help to keep you going--right along with the facts and truth you NEED.

Fertility for Beginners

Trying hard to conceive? Yup, been there. Good news? You aren’t alone. Better news? You can learn the ins and outs to address your situation here.

Battling a mess of bathroom visits? You're not alone! Truly! Check out this smart resource to help you sort it out--and finally get a handle on all those potty breaks!

 

Control Your Leaking

Things not so pretty with the “Down There” control situation? We’ve got your back–or your front, however your circumstances roll.

At a loss with your pubescent teen? You're not alone! Snag tried and true tips and insights here to survive these dicey years--you can do it, I promise!

 

Parenting Through Puberty

Forget potty-training. Parenting just got real. Get the inside scoop on how to handle it with grace and savvy–while keeping your wits about you.

Trying to manage crazy kid behaviors and ready to pull out your hair? You're not alone, I promise! Get help here!

Decoding Your Child’s Behavior

This one rings near and dear. Honestly? I just don’t get my daughter’s behavior. At all. Any help I can get is a very welcome help.

Overwhelmed with diet plans and ideas? Here is the real scoop on how to manage a healthy diet for you and your family--you can do this, I promise!

Balancing Sugar in Your Diet

Listen, I am I the only hold-out who still occasionally bribes her kids with lollipops? Is it worth it? Get the real scoop here and figure out how to finally manage your family’s diet once and for all.

Having some problems in the bedroom? You aren't alone, I promise! Here is a real, true exploration of what we need and how to get it! Game on!

Understanding Sexual Dysfunction

True story: you aren’t the only one who has had these problems. Really. Get help understanding what the heck is going on. Now. You aren’t weird, I promise.

This life is rough, I know. But you don’t have to do it alone. VProud.tv is here to help. Sign up, snag some time for yourself and connect. And learn. And get smarter while feeling less alone.

We can do this life, friends. We can do it together. Really.

 

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Sep 302015
 

Parenthood is full of demands on our time and working hard to meet our kids' wants and needs. Here are 3 solid reasons that taking time for yourself in the midst is so very important. I promise you'll laugh at the first one!We are at the height of 4 yr. old ridiculousness around these parts. Most of our days end in an unabashed show of dramatic tears–mother and daughter alike. As my husband walks through the door in the evenings, I shove her his way, shouting, “She’s yours!”, then flee to a more relaxing expenditure of time, such as folding laundry. Or fighting through my son’s 1st grade homework with him. Or beating my head against a brick wall. In comparison to spending another minute with Princess Insanity, it’s all blissful.

Inner zen in this delightful stage seems a laughable goal, yet what I bemoan, while indeed highlighted by the particularly beastliness of this age, is something I’ve found to be true of so many phases of parenting: Mommy is disappearing. Yup, I’m gone. Have pretty much left the building. The orbits of our day-to-day are busily circling wants and needs, just not my wants or needs.

Largely, I believe this is the way it should be. Parenting is a tremendous journey of self-sacrifice. That’s cool; I signed up for this.

But…but sometimes. Just sometimes, it would be nice to…be me.

One day recently, I was cruising in my Swagger Wagon, and REO Speedwagon‘s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” came on the radio. As all true REO fans know, when you hear this song, you simply can’t fight the feeling. You’ve gotta crank it up and belt it out with all of the 80s-passion latent within your soul.

So there I was, rocking my tune, when I heard the piercing cry, “Mommy, stop singing!” Obviously, I first ignored my daughter. But then her whiny plea continued, “DON’T sing this song!”.

Why?“, I was baffled.

“Because I HATE it!”, she wailed.

Utterly ridiculous. But I mean, really, who was I to judge? We all have musical tastes, and maybe my jam wasn’t her jam. I could honor this, I supposed. I mean, it was just one song. And I don’t follow the news. Perhaps there was some sort of clinical REO Speedwagon aversion running rampant through the preschool set of which I was unaware. I begrudingly flipped the dial to the next station.

In a most magical radio moment, the vibes of “Sweet Home Alabama” filled the minivan. Score! I turned the volume up even higher and started grooving. My drive-dancing was on!

Until it was again rudely interrupted by my precious buzz-kill, “Moooooom! Don’t sing! Turn this off!”

“WHY?!”, I pled. What was the possible logic?

“Because it makes me SO MAD!”

I’ll let you envision the curse words streaming through my head at this point. After the mental expletives passed, I paused.

Mmmhhh….

Parenthood is full of demands on our time and working hard to meet our kids' wants and needs. Here are 3 solid reasons that taking time for yourself in the midst is so very important. I promise you'll laugh at the first one!

This was a super time to get real. Very real. I asked myself three questions. Three questions that have become an excellent measure in this messy progression of parenthood of whether I sacrifice vestiges of myself for the well-being of my children:

  1. Would my choice in any way bring harm to her? Lynyrd Skynyrd has done many things, but to my knowledge, they have never brought ill-fate to a 4 year old with the sound of their voices. So, to answer this question, NO. Getting my Alabama groove on would not harm my daughter.
  2. Would agreeing to her request encourage behavior I don’t want to foster in my child? If I indulged her request, I’d be saying “okay” to demanding, rude, unnecessarily controlling dominance of the environment around her. Do I want my child to be a bully? Nope. So by permitting her request I would be working to high-five bratty behavior I never want to tolerate.
  3. Would the benefit of pursuing my desire outweigh her discomfort with the situation? Yes. She throws a tantrum every two seconds. I slice out time to unwind and have fun…never. She could suffer out her delusional discontent while I took a much-needed 4 minutes and 45 seconds to enjoy something. Miss Stinky-Pants would survive.

The answers to these three questions in this situation were clear and easy. They will not always be. While, as parents, this age and stage of raising young children is a time when the things that make us us often lie dormant, I believe there is a tremendous value to embracing a few things for ourselves.

This might be in the form of making chicken stir-fry for dinner because YOU like it, putting the kids to bed a half-hour early so you can finally watch the last episode of Peaky Blinders, taking time to exercise to protect your health, actually finishing a conversation with your spouse despite the kids’ attempts to interrupt, or forcing them to use their least-favorite bath towel because you simply were too tired last night to finish the laundry and wash the preferred towels. However you choose to pause and respect yourself, it matters.

Let's face it: our preschoolers are a bit off their rockers. Parenthood is full of demands on our time and working hard to meet our kids' wants and needs. Here are 3 solid reasons that taking time for yourself in the midst is so very important. I promise you'll laugh at the first one!

The thing is, while we love and cherish our children, they do not run the show. In the midst of tantrums, cries and pleas, never permit yourself the confusion: you are in charge, not them. If knowing this is the only self-care you offer yourself in the fury of these child-rearing years, well done. Well done, as this is the best and most important way we can honor the adults we have spent a lifetime growing into and becoming.

As for me, I yanked the volume dial as high as it goes and loved on “Sweet Home Alabama” as I never had before. Partially to drown out the wails of my daughter, but mostly because I really, really like the song.

 

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Sep 142015
 

Spent time wondering if the new adult coloring craze is for you? IT IS! Trust me--affordable, easy and fun. All the how-tos you need to get started hereIt’s time to fill you in on my latest obsession. Hello, grown-up coloring.

I’d been hearing a lot of buzz about the new coloring books designed for adults and how trendy this stress-relieving hobby was becoming, but I blew it off. My hours were full enough; I didn’t need another distraction for my time. Plus, art was never really my thing. Nope, better just leave it to the hipper hobbyists around while I cozied up with my knitting.

And then my sweet sister bought me a book for my birthday. For a week, I eyed it suspiciously. What was going to happen if I picked up my colored pencils and went for it? Would I be judged if I colored outside the lines? Would I have to show my work to anyone? What if I picked the wrong colors?

Then, the Sunday night before school started, while I was busy hyperventilating in a paper bag with nerves over my sons beginning first grade, it occurred to , “What can it hurt?” Any form of stress relief could only help, right?

So I set up shop on the deck and carefully selected what I perceived to be the easiest page in the book. I grabbed a pencil and I set off…

Fast-forward two weeks, and I now find myself saying things like, “Mommy needs a coloring break” and “Don’t touch them! Those are the good colored pencils!”

Yup, I’ve gone from being coloring-wary to fully coloring-centric in less than a month. Why the switch? Everything they say about coloring being a form of relaxation, an easy way to practice mindfulness is 100% true. I love the way they explain it on the back of my book:

“If you notice at any point that you are forgetting your worries, daydreaming freely or feeling more creative, curious, excitable, delighted, relaxed, or any combination thereof, take a deep breath and enjoy it. Remind yourself that coloring, like dancing or falling in love, doesn’t have a point. It is the point.

When you don’t feel like it any more, stop.”

The idea is that you lose yourself in something other than the cares of your world. There is lots of research that explains why coloring is such a successful means to achieving this goal. Parade magazine recently an a great article on this. For me, as soon as I got over my silly hang-ups about how I was supposed to be coloring and realized the reason I was doing it was solely for my own enjoyment, I fell in love.

Curious? I know, I get it! Listen, it’s a super-duper easy hobby to pick up–and one that is well worth your time for the stress-relief it provides. Let me hold your hand while you get started…

As I do with all new fascinations, I’ve thrown myself into exploring this hobby, experimented with different methods and studied up on the tools of the trade. And here are my user-tested tips for beginning colorers.

Want to take up coloring? It's so fun and EASY, I promise! Grab the tools you need and you're good to go, I promise! Here is the REAL scoop on what you need to get started with those fun adult coloring books!

Get the right tools:

  1. Start with a good, general coloring book. I am overwhelmed by the fantastic selection of grown-up coloring books available, and have now filled my Amazon “Save for Later” cart with those I’d like to check out, but my sister did a super job and giving me the perfect book for kicking off my new hobby. This one gets great reviews and is incredibly popular.
  2. The quality of pencils does matter. While a few weeks ago I assumed colored pencils were colored pencils, turns out I was such a novice fool. My Crayola pack was brittle, with tips breaking off and difficult to sharpen. They layed color down poorly and wore down quickly. After that first night, I used a gift card to snap up a Prismacolor set and I’m tickled with them. The color is vibrant with the tips soft and long-lasting. I’ve found my brand!
  3. A good sharpener is important.  Again, I learned this one the hard way. Get a sharpener that works with your pencils. If you have good quality soft core pencils, such as the Prismacolor set I purchased, regular sharpeners will be too harsh. The Prismacolor Premier Pencil Sharpener works like a dream for my pencils, but if your pencils are harder, the Scholar Sharpener may be a good fit.
  4. Choose an eraser that suits your needs. While coloring outside of the lines is a good thing in life, some people find it to be annoying when you make a mistake on a picture. At first I thought I wouldn’t care. And then I got really into how pretty my picture was and was grouchy when my hand slipped. I think this kneaded rubber eraser works so well, but I know some people enjoy the grip of this triangular version, while others favor the pencil-like peel-away erasers. The good news is, erasers are cheap, so if you have to get a couple before you find the one that works for you, it’s not a huge expense.
  5. If you get really into coloring, there are other items you can invest in, such as blenders, pencil extenders, and fixatives, but they aren’t necessary to begin your coloring hobby.

Spent time wondering if the new adult coloring craze is for you? IT IS! Trust me--affordable, easy and fun. All the how-tos you need to get started here.

Enjoy your coloring!:

  1. Some people do well coloring with their kids; I do not. I prefer it to be a peaceful experience, and with little hands asking to use my fancy pencils, I’d end up stressed out and cranky. So I save coloring time for after they’re in bed. Do what works for you.
  2. Give it whatever amount of time feels good. I am exhausted in the evenings and am jealous of my sleep time, so typically color for only 20-30 minutes before I pack it in. Remember there is no finishing point (i.e. don’t aim to complete a page). Color whatever is in front of you for as long as it feels soothing.
  3. I don’t watch TV or check my phone during this time, but I do hang with my husband. The thing is, we so rarely get to just talk. When I color, my endorphins start flowing, I relax, and conversation about the tougher things in life–worries about son’s schooling, schedules to make, bills to pay–flows so much easier. This might not work for everyone. Many people prefer to color solo. Again, do what works for you.
  4. Some nights I just want to chill with a TV show or go to bed–totally fine! Coloring isn’t a chore, it’s a delight. Do it when you feel like it.
  5. Don’t worry about colors or making it look pretty. Just color and allow yourself to channel your inner zen and be in the moment. It’s not a test, it’s mindfulness: being present where you are. Enjoy it, and just grab whatever colors or design that initially pops to mind.
  6. Relax and let the soothing strokes of the pencil still you. It’s an awesome experience.

Yup, it’s an awesome experience. Go for it, friends!

 

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Jun 172015
 

Dying your hair blue? Take it from someone who NEVER does anything crazy or wild--it was so worth it! Completely the right decision and the reason might surprise you!We play it pretty tame around here. Our wildest nights consist of deciding to start an episode of the fantastically addictive Orange is the New Black after 8pm. I’m sadly not joking.

So when I trekked off to BlogU the weekend before last and came home with blue hair, it was of note. Not of note in that my husband was particularly concerned. He asked if this was my version of a midlife crisis, I said “probably”, and we left it at that. We do a pretty decent job of letting each other do our own thing.

No, it was of note in the sense that my hair, depending on the last time I’ve made a pass at one of my at-home highlighting kits, has always remained solidly hued in the blonde-to-light brown spectrum. Blue was definitely something new for me and my strands.

My children captured the seeming lack of logic behind my new color splash best, “But why, Mommy?” I, of course, tried to pacify their questions by lying and telling them I did it because I knew blue was one of their favorite colors. A useless explanation and they knew it: “But why, Mommy?”

Why did I dye my hair blue?

Why not?

I’m 35 and work from home. I’m my own boss in more ways than one. This helps lend sense to my reasoning, but still doesn’t explain, I know.

A week before BlogU, I broke into one of my dye kits in the midst of a very full weekend. In my haste, well…let’s just say it didn’t go well. I posted a spoofy advance apology in our conference group for my wonky color job, and some how the conversation turned to how I should just dye my hair blue and forget about it. And I thought, “why not?”.

I mean if Kelly Ripa can rock her pink, and my beloved People Style Watch reports that vibrant locks are the way to go, why not bandwagon it up and hop in on the trend? Plus, in my book, blue is always prettier than brown.

So I had no reason not to dye my hair, but yet I had a very real reason to dye my hair.

You see, I’ve talked a lot about my mother dying 3 years ago. And while this will never become any less horrible, I do us all a disservice by not talking about the blessings that have come from her death. Screeeeech…hold the phone. What’s that, blessings from her death? Yes, blessings. Changes in family functioning, new friends, discovery of fellow kindred spirits, and most namely, abandonment of fear.

I have written about this before, but since my mom took her exit, the things of this world don’t matter as much. I have no control over what happens and I’m very aware of this. Clinging to a careful protection of what transpires seems pretty useless…and this is very freeing.

Four years ago? This would have been my hair! That which I cared for and styled and presented to the world at large. Now? It’s just hair.

It’s just hair. 

Still, this is only further explanation as to why dying my hair was of no consequence, not what the actual reason was that I did dye my hair.

There was only one reason. Jessica D’Pirate.

Dying your hair blue? Take it from someone who NEVER does anything crazy or wild--it was so worth it! Completely the right decision and the reason might surprise you!

Who is she? Until 10 days ago, I didn’t know aside from the fact that she has a cool blog (seriously, go check out Domestic Pirate, you’ll thank me later) and a fun online presence with a rockin’ Instagram account. Now I know she is a mom of four who loves her family so much. I know she has really boss friends who throw her awesome birthday parties and how incredibly gorgeous the bright shade of her purple hair is when you see it in-person. I know that she can cut a dance move like no one’s business and that she is so easy to laugh and is one of those precious people with whom you can be real.

She was the one who kindly offered to hook me up with the blue in that Facebook thread before the conference. And she’s the one who welcomed me into her dorm room at Blog U without knowing me at all and shared her color-changing magic.

I know that she is kind. That she is nice. That she has a sweet spirit and that I will miss her a ton if I don’t get to meet up with her again.

I know that she is a fellow soul on this earth and that if I had been precious about maintaining my ill-highlighted blondeness, I would have totally missed the chance to connect with her. What a loss. What a colossal, colossal loss.

The gift of sharing a moment with someone else? It’s a gift. Meeting someone as boss as Jessica and bonding over hair dye? Worth it–whatever the result looked like.

She was worth it. She was the reason dyeing my hair was a good idea. She was my why.

That I really, really love my blue streak? It’s only a bonus.

Go find your own blue, friends, it might be far, far more valuable than the color of your hair.

Jun 122015
 
Sometimes the very best gift we can give ourselves is LETTING GO. How one night out reminded me of so much of who I used to be--and why it was so incredibly freeing! You'll lkaugh over the memories of jelly shoes and neon t-shirts--along with a few other throw-back gems!

Binkies and Briefcases wears braces like boss!

Last weekend I had one of those Experiences-of-a-Lifetime-You-Will-Never-Forget. That’s perfect because I don’t want to forget it. Ever.

After a year’s worth of endless behind the scenes planning and four days worth of running like a mad woman lifting boxes heavier than my Jillian Michael DVD-trained muscles should ever be allowed, WE DID IT. We pulled off an amazing Blog U 2015 Conference.

It was boss.

Really, there is no other way to put it. It might be important to note that my hair is now dyed blue, but more on that later.

For now, let’s just focus on the fact that BlogU was incredible. Full of hard-hitting blog how-to that you need to know and tons of co-blogger bonding, it was, in short, EPIC.

I could go on and on about the pride that soared through my soul reflecting in the heart-bursting moments when the Term Paper of the Year awards were read (really, this ended me) or when the faculty showed off their savvy brilliance schooling us during sessions. It was beautiful, the kind of beautiful that words don’t accommodate.

But let me focus on the highlight of the weekend–the #MiddleSchoolAwkward Night sponsored by Nickelodeon. It was aces. A gorgeous mix of poignant ungainly pre-teen memories coupled with the extreme coolness of ginormous scrunchies. The chance to throw-back to these years was a gift. A really, really fun gift.

Sometimes the very best gift we can give ourselves is LETTING GO. How one night out reminded me of so much of who I used to be--and why it was so incredibly freeing! You'll lkaugh over the memories of jelly shoes and neon t-shirts--along with a few other throw-back gems!

The thing is, back when we were in Middle School, we were awesome. We were fearlessly committed to our hideous neon accents and off-center ponytails/t-shirts. It was a Lifestyle of Awkward and we were its spokeswomen. It was fabulous in its tragedy.

We were a mess and we didn’t know it. God knows if our mothers actually knew it or they were just too traumatized by our appearance to give us a polite head’s up. Either way, we were rocking it. We were rocking it in the way that we so passionately believed in our NKOTB paraphanelia, we wouldn’t have believed any naysaying anyway.

Sometimes the very best gift we can give ourselves is LETTING GO. How one night out reminded me of so much of who I used to be--and why it was so incredibly freeing! You'll lkaugh over the memories of jelly shoes and neon t-shirts--along with a few other throw-back gems!

You see, we were cool back then.

There was an intrinsic beauty in the awkward. There was a full sold-out dedication to ugly neon hues and our staunch refusal to recognize their hideousness. We were a culture, an age, a generation committed to our flashy colors and acid-washed denim.

I don’t believe teens and preteens today experience the same level of anti-fantasticness we did in our early years. Today’s generation nails it–they actually look human when they leave the house. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms explains this perfectly. We did not look enjoy this level of refinement. Back in the 80s and 90s, it was dicey. For two decades, middle schoolers existed solely on a continuum of awkward appearance.

Every generation has their tangible components, their jelly shoes and glitter-filled snap bracelets that are unique to their place in history. Ours were just far more ugly than those of today. In today’s world, the girls actually look pretty. In my day, we said, “screw pretty as long as our trainer bra straps hang out abundantly from our off-the shoulder tees”. Let’s be honest; no one ever looked good in neon. Ever. 

But do you know what I saw when I looked around at the Nickelodeon #MiddleSchoolAwkward dance at Blog U on Saturday night? I saw a sea of happiness, a sea of people who didn’t care.  As the beats of Mickey throbbed through the crowd, I saw a celebration of all that our younger years held, however ghastly they were. And this, this willingness to give it up and go with it regardless, is what side ponytails and t-shirt clips left behind.

And for one night, Nickelodeon allowed me and my fab middle-age homies to travel back to our age of neon innocence and live it up–live it up despite the modern siren call to abandon awkward. Live it up with all our clashing colors and too-large tops and too-tight bottoms. Live it up in the fabulousness of our Middle School selves–side ponies and t-shirt clips most definitely included.

Sometimes the very best gift we can give ourselves is LETTING GO. How one night out reminded me of so much of who I used to be--and why it was so incredibly freeing! You'll lkaugh over the memories of jelly shoes and neon t-shirts--along with a few other throw-back gems!

Being tulle twinsies with Christi Campbell? Rocked!

For one night, we were our stunning awkward selves, and this is why Blog U has captured my heart. It’s a chance to embrace yourself for whatever and whoever you are–poofy tulle skirts included. See you in 2016, friends?

****I wrote this post as part of Nickelodeon’s® sponsorship of The Blog University. The series “100 Things to Do Before High School” premiered on June 6 @ 8pm on Nickelodeon.”****

Apr 272015
 

Accepting that as a mom, my kids' needs come first has been a hard thing to get used to. The daily struggle of managing schedules and organizing it all is a beast, but here is the one thing I remember when it all starts to feel too overwhelming. Read on to learn how to press through this season of parenting--it can be done!I write a lot about working hard to accept our age and stage in this life, probably because it’s one of the things I struggle with the very most on a day-to-day basis.

It never seems fair. Or right. Or like it makes sense.

It is that odd 12 minutes you have in between herding children through their morning routine (why is it always such a surprise that we have to put shoes on every morning??) and shoveling them into the minivan for school drop-off. The possibilities reach far.

Do you make a quick pass at a shower and brushing your teeth?

Screw the shower and fight through some vigorous sit-ups in a shout-out to the approaching summer months?

Pop out a few quick over-due emails?

Tackle the towering pile of dirty dishes? Maybe this will be the morning God gives me a shot of super-speedy energy and I could actually get them finished before we leave!

Sit and play “birthday party” with your kids as they’ve been begging?

Speaking of birthday parties, if you don’t get those invites addressed and sent out, your son won’t even have a birthday party.

The problem is that these are all good things. Valuable, important things to you, your house, and your kids. The fullness of this life means that each activity is a calculated trade. Every thing done means that there is something else that is not going to get done.

I want to be the super-mom who gets up before the sun, exercises, dresses in a chic outfit, checks in with work stuff and has time to fill the juice cups before my kids come down the stairs wailing for breakfast. But I want to sleep too, because that matters, right?

I’d love to catch up with paperwork, but there are friends who need me. A nice walk after my husband gets home to watch the kids would be sweet, but when was the last time we actually had a real conversation? Dinner together might be smart. Scheduling a needed haircut, but I have a meeting. Writing a post, but kids’ homework. This but that, thisbutthat, thisbutthatthisbutthatthisbutthat….

One morning when breathing through all of this was especially challenging, talked with my friend. “It feels like I am always robbing Peter to pay Paul,” I whined, “I never get it all done.” “Honey,” she lovingly “got” me, “You can’t.”

She is right. So right. While I desperately long for less jiggly bits around my thighs and passionately organized closets, for this season, I can’t. It’s a season of selflessness. As much as our own wants and needs flare up and jealously vie for a prioritized seat, things like kids needing Mommy to draw intricate sidewalk chalk roads on the driveway and endlessly sit in school pick-up lines power through with their pressing realness.

Accepting that as a mom, my kids' needs come first has been a hard thing to get used to. The daily struggle of managing schedules and organizing it all is a beast, but here is the one thing I remember when it all starts to feel too overwhelming. Read on to learn how to press through this season of parenting--it can be done!

 

When you break into the territory of need vs. need, it can get desperate. Really desperate, friends, I know. Someone’s something is taking a backseat. It’s a very hard line to draw but one that has no choice but to be drawn.

Since we have that darn stickey wicket of not being able to do ALL THE THINGS and since we parents are the grown-ups, it might be time to latch onto some acceptance.

Acceptance in the form that smudgy handprints on the refrigerator are the norm, right along with my dusty baseboards, and if you don’t like that, please leave my home. Acceptance in that if I only squeeze in a few squats, I can choose to focus on my pretty earrings vs. the enormity of my thighs. Acceptance in that I may be dozing off during bedtime stories with my kids, but at least I’m trying to read to them.

Acceptance in that I’m not superhuman and I’m going to have to bag up a lot of the things I’m yearning for and toss them in the backseat. Feel free to throw yours in there too as you drive these kiddos and their world around.

Maybe some day we can unpack our own stuff and pay Peter back, but for now, settle in, it’s going to be a long ride.

 

Second image credit, depositphotos.com, image ID:35208743, copyright:IuriiSokolov

 

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 042015
 

Feeling down and depressed? You aren't alone. Dark places are known by so many, even though we don't always discuss. Beating yourself over something stupid? Find light and hope here with this one simple realization.I’d like to report that Monday, the three year anniversary of my mother’s death, ended up being a day of blessing, a day of reflective happiness spent with my children, niece and sister. Instead, I drove the minivan through the garage door.

You know that AllState commercial when the garage door is shattered by the foolish home owner? THAT WAS ME.

I’d love to share happy, gainful sentiments on how the death of one’s mother can be a beautiful self-growth experience. But I cannot. Because I was an idiot.

I could blame my daughter’s incessant 3-yr. oldness for my break with sane, rational precautions. Like opening the garage door before I drove through it. I could blame my continued destabilizing grief for not thinking clearly. I could blame preschool for the last-minute curve ball of needing to find the perfect solution for Dr. Seuss Hat Day.

The truth? It was all these things.

But I was still an idiot.

I very cautiously guarded who I could share my mess with. Because it was so very real, so very desperate, and so very, very messy. With that one horrific crunch of metal crashing upon metal, everything quickly fell into a rather dark state.

I wasn’t just mad and sad, I was hurt. I was ashamed. I felt alone in my stupidity and lack of ability to get it together. And truth told, I might have bottled up my circus show and privately berated myself for the pain of my mess, except…

My sweet sister. She visited shortly after the savage garage door attack. As I expressed my disillusion with my life with her through broken sobs, she very sagely, kindly, cautiously suggested that I am not the only one in this world who does stupid things.

Huh. I still refused to believe that anyone could be as big as a fool as me, but wondering if there might be truth to her bold insight, I ventured to tell a few others of the colossal disaster my day had become.

Accidents and stupid mistakes happen--to ALL of us, really. Feeling down and depressed? You aren't alone. Dark places are known by so many, even though we don't always discuss. Beating yourself over something stupid? Find light and hope here with this one simple realization.

And you know what? Almost everyone else had a story of some bone-headed move they’d rocked with their own vehicles. Tales of walls side-scraped, parking meters nailed, even getting stuck teetering on top of a median. My sister was right; I am not the only one who has done something fantastically stupid with their car.

I am not the only who has cost my family 1500 unavailable dollars by doing something really dumb.

I’ll be vulnerably honest, readers, I am still in that dark place, still furious with myself and genuinely doubting whether I will ever competently function on this earth.

But I will accept this: I will accept that I am not the only one who has been in this crappy place.

And lest you are in this place too, my only prayer is that you will confidently know you aren’t alone either. Supposedly there is a flip side. Supposedly someday we will laugh about tossing money at maintaining our homes after we’ve attacked them in our fits of foolishness.

In the meantime, cozy up here for a hug. I love you; God loves you. And there is a really fabulous circus show going by that we are privvy to watch.

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:11093496, copyright:HASLOO

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:10629308, copyright:ersler

 

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