How to Find a Moms’ Group

mocha-moms-of-silver-spring

When you are a mother, sometimes finding a girlfriend is tougher than scoring a date when you are single.

Maybe you have moved to a new city. Or you welcomed your first child and most of your close friends are not mothers. Maybe you just made the transition to being home with your child after counting your work colleagues as your core pals. Maybe you have been an at-home mother for a while and just made the transition back to working.

If it is tough to locate one kindred spirit, to borrow that beautiful phrase from the character Anne Shirley, it often seems impossible to consider the possibility of finding a great core group of girlfriends. You may find yourself asking, Where is my Ya-Ya Sisterhood, my Red Tent of laughter and support?

New baby, new friend needs

After I had my first baby back in 2003, I literally wandered around my town for six months with a huge smile and an adorable baby, hoping that I’d randomly make a mom friend.

I knew exactly one other woman in the area with young children, and I didn’t want to wear her out.

Although I now play a mom-in-the-know on the Internet, I was once fellow-mom friendless.

Sometimes I met my former coworkers and single friends for drinks at fashionable bars and brought along my baby. Once a month or so I would tag along to my friend Jennifer’s wonderfully inclusive playgroup of experienced moms with two children. I signed baby Charlie and I up for a mommy-and-me music class and never once ditched. I called my friends and family all the time for long chats (this was so long ago I did not have a texting plan…go on and laugh.) I was not isolated, but I thirsted for more.

Tribe found!

It was not until Charlie was seven months old that I found my tribe, my moms’ group. The moms’ group had monthly big meetings and activities every week, moms’ nights out, and small weekly playgroups formed based on the children’s ages.

All of a sudden, my dance card was effortlessly full of outings populated by other stay-at-home, part-time working or maternity-leave-taking mothers. And of course, their adorable children. I made deep, lasting friendships that have sustained me through these past 11 years of motherhood.

National resources for finding moms groups

No matter where you live in the United States, these national organizations can help you find a great group of fellow mothers. All of these listed resources provide search functions so you can find the local group nearest you.

Mothers Offering Mothers Support (MOMS) Club: This international organization of local chapters of mothers’ groups is the moms’ group I found when my son was a baby. Here I made lifelong friends, one of them the incredible blogger Leticia Barr of Tech Savvy Mama, and another the amazing Cristie Ritz-King of Reinvention Girl. We started out changing our babies’ diapers side-by-side in our living rooms and now we blog and network together. Life is beautiful. My son Charlie made forever friends too, including his playgroup buddy Emily, Leticia’s daughter, who is herself the founder of Ribbon Barrettes for Research. (I have to say, there is really good friend juice in the water in my town of Silver Spring.)

Mocha Moms: Another national organization for mothers, Mocha Moms are support groups for women of color (however, women of all colors are welcome.) I have attended several local Mocha meetings and met good friends who are core members, and I know so many moms from all over the country who have said their Mocha Moms group friendships changed their lives.

La Leche League International: Breast-feeding bonds members of local La Leche chapters, but the friendships women and their children make at the meetings and activities last long after weaning.

Local sites to search

Other great places for finding a parenting group in your hometown include those places you might search for other local resources and activities. Here are the places where moms’ groups can be found in my area, and probably yours, too.

Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups: Search for “moms group” “playgroup” and your town’s name and see if you find a list serv for a local mother’s group. If you find one it will probably be invite-only, so e-mail the administrator and write a bit about yourself, where you live, your children and even attach a family photo so you can gain approval. Once you are in, attend an IRL meeting or activity.

Meetup: This awesome resource site is not only for finding hikes and chess games and Jazzercize clubs…it also lists moms’ groups, dads’ groups, and more. Find open activities as well as invite-only ones. Do not be shy about making that online introduction and attending! Meetups are also a super place to find groups for Working Mothers.

Get out there

I know that joining or attending an event with a new moms group takes a heck of a lot of courage. Believe me, I have been there, deciding on which jeans would best hold in my postpartum pooch and which nursing-stretched top would best communicate “New Friend Material” to other moms. Just know that every single member has been in your boat, and everyone is looking for new connections in this big crazy sea of parenting.

Go to that coffee shop, that storytime, that community center playgroup. I promise you, and that beautiful baby on your hip, will have a fabulous time.

Easy and Delicious: Corn Flakes and Candy Halloween Bark

I will happily admit to being a lover of sweets, of candy and yes, of chocolate – both white and dark. I can’t help it. I blame my mom, as I’m certain she passed her ‘sweet tooth’ right on to me. This means, I rarely miss an opportunity to create a holiday related treat that both my family and I can enjoy. My small people are fairly easy to please when it comes to sweets – but add some of their favorite ingredients and they are hooked.

This is a treat we’ll also by sharing at our annual Halloween ‘Trunk or Treat’ festival. Hosted by the school, the kids dress up and ‘trick or treat’ from one car to the next in the school’s parking lot. It is a safe and fun environment allowing the kids to spend time with their friends and support their school (and come home with plenty of candy a FULL WEEK before Halloween).

This treat is easy, delicious and fits right in with the holiday theme – that makes it a favorite.

Delicious! My kids won't stop eating this -> CornFlakes and Candy Halloween Bark

Corn Flakes and Candy Halloween Bark

The ingredients are simple:

CornFlakes and Candy Halloween Bark

  • 2 Cups of CornFlakes
  • 1 pound of white chocolate (or both white and dark if you’d like to mix like I do) – do not use chips
  • 1 Cup of Candy Corn
  • 1 Cup Holiday colored M&Ms
  • Halloween Sprinkles

And the directions? Just as easy:

CornFlakes and Candy Halloween Bark

  • Cover a 9 1/2 by 11 baking tray with wax paper
  • Spray wax paper lightly with cooking spray
  • Spread 2 cups of Corn Flakes on the wax paper from edge to edge
  • Melt the chocolate over a double boiler (if you have one) or in the microwave (like me) for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between each interval until liquid
  • Pour the chocolate over the Corn Flakes, careful to spread evenly
  • (If you are using more than one kind of chocolate, do one first and then add the second, cutting through the entire mixture with a knife to blend them together)
  • Sprinkle the candy – the Candy Corn and M&Ms on top (pressing lightly with a piece of wax paper if necessary to push the candy into the chocolate mixture)
  • Dash the holiday sprinkles over the entire pan

CornFlakes and Candy Halloween Bark
Put the entire pan in the refrigerator for an hour, peel the wax paper away and break apart.

Enjoy every last bite.  

Keep leftovers in the fridge to keep them from getting too soft.

CornFlakes and Candy Halloween Bark

Have you tried this before? I LOVE the combination of the sweet (the chocolate) and the crunch (the Corn Flakes) and my small people do too.  I can’t wait to hear what you think.

Disclosure: I am proud to have had a long-standing relationship with Kellogg’s and so enjoy sharing all kinds of posts with you – from focusing on breakfast to recipes like this one. As always, all thoughts and opinions shared here are mine and mine alone.

Support Your Favorite Cause with Your Favorite Photo: Donate A Photo Now!

I have long believed in the power of photographs to stir emotion, capture a memory, remind me of ‘that one special’ moment – or even the average, but beautiful and more than anything make us FEEL good.

Snapshots capture heart on display.

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They capture the milestones.

Delaney First Communion

Coop First Communion

The ‘remember whens’….

DelaneyCooperGinaKelly

The I want to go backs….

BeachesTurksandCaicos

You have similar memories marked, don’t you?

I have also long believed in the power of good – teaching it to my small people, sharing it whenever I can, using the small power I have to make a change for the better. I think maybe you do too? Especially if you could help a cause that mattered to you every single day in less than the amount of time it takes you to pour a cup of coffee?

Or get dressed?

Or get your kids dressed (seriously, I know…that can take FOREVER)?

Or make lunches?

Or send an email or text?

Or listen to your favorite song?

I’m excited to have started working as an Ambassador for Social Good with Johnson and Johnson. Their ‘good’ radar is sky-high with programs that Save and Improve the lives of Women and Children (including one of my favorites: Text4Baby), Prevent Disease and Strengthen the Health Care Workforce…but there is one particular program I adore.

Quite simply, it is an app: Donate a Photo. You download the free app, you upload a picture and choose one of the many causes on the site - everything from giving school supplies to young girls in Guatemala, to protecting a child from bullying, to giving a homeless child a happier birthday.

A beautiful way to help in just minutes a day! ->Donate a Photo from Johnson and Johnson

For every photo you ‘donate’ – meaning share through the app to Facebook and/or Twitter (and on to Instagram as well if you choose), Johnson and Johnson will donate $1 to the cause you have chosen to help. Each one of the causes listed on the site has a goal they are striving to reach and will be on the site for a particular time frame. You can even see how previous causes have been helped by something as simple as a photograph.

Causes helped via -> Donate a Photo from Johnson and Johnson

You can donate once a day. It is beautiful to see the causes that have already been helped simply by watching the ever updating photo stream…and even more amazing? The number of photos that have been donated since the app started(note: over 300,000!!) and this past week alone – more than 300. Fabulous.

Donate a Photo from Johnson and Johnson - Success!

To inspire you to get involved, I’ve created a Fall #DonateaPhoto Challenge and with the help of Johnson & Johnson, set up a giveaway as a little extra motivation. Here’s how it works: Download the Donate a Photo app (it’s free and available on both iPhone and Android).  Create an account. Donate a photo any day within the next two weeks (between October 23, 2014- November 6, 2014) following the prompts for the ‘Fall in Love with Fall’ Donate a Photo Challenge.

Donate a Photo Fall Photo Challenge

Once you have done that, share the link to your photo (example of mine on Twitter) below and you will be entered to win ONE OF TWO $200 Charity Gift Cards – these gift cards allow you to donate to the charity of your choice and are being provided by Johnson & Johnson.

Donate a Photo Fall Photo Challenge

    • Easy enough, right?
    • Download the app.
    • Upload a photo that fits the theme for that given day.
    • Choose a cause to help.
    • Share.
    • You’ve done something GOOD!
    • Now, come back here and enter below to win MORE goodness – a $200 Charity Gift Card (we’re giving away TWO!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you so much for joining in the goodness – it is so easy and again, it only takes moments. You can enter with as many pictures as you share in the two week period.
Good luck!

Official stuff: ExtraordinaryMommy.com is not responsible for prizes that are shipped from outside vendors or sponsors. All entries will be pooled together and two (2) winners will be drawn. The winner will have two calendar days to reply via email. Unclaimed prizes will be placed for availability to newly chosen winners after that time. Giveaway is open to all U.S. residents only, must be at least 18 years old to enter. Entries accepted from October 23, 2014 through November 6, 2014 ending at exactly 11:59 CDT.

Disclosure: I am proud to be an Ambassador for Social Good with Johnson and Johnson. As always, all thoughts and opinions shared here are mine and mine alone. 

Travel Well, Pack Light

So by now you might have guessed that I travel quite a bit. Living in Europe, I love to travel to see everything possible before we have to move back to the States permanently. I’m actually leaving for eastern Europe next week. On this particular trip I am packing in one carry-on bag all of my clothes & everything I will need for the week. Some say it can’t be done, I say let’s do it.

Pack Light, Travel Well

pack light and travel well!

Because I have done a few of these types of trips before, I have become decently good at packing. Wait – no – I’m still like every girl, wanting to over pack a complete outfit for each day. It would be nice, but it’s impractical. So here are my tips for packing light but still looking super cute while traveling.

1.) Plan ahead

It’s helpful to know what kind of weather you’ll experience at your destination and what kinds of activities you will be doing. This way you can be very specific with what you pack. Add the location to your weather app on your phone or call ahead to friends you’re visiting (if that’s the case) to ask for suggestions. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be, and the more focused your packing will be!

2.) Remix!

7x7-collage

Have you tried this before? If not, you need to give it a try, even if you’re not traveling! Take  7 articles of clothing and remix them to create 7 (or more!) different outfits. It really forces you to be creative with what you have. You will choose items that all go together but still create completely different outfits, leaving you looking posh even though you wear the same jeans three different times. This is the best way to pack your suitcase, taking the time to plan in advance and even trying on outfits if you need to! Packing like this means there will be no question what to wear and if you can throw together an outfit with what you packed!

3.) Wear the heavy stuff

When I am flying especially I always wear my big boots and carry my big jacket. I actually find that my boots are easier to take off at security, and I’m already wearing socks so I don’t have to stand there barefooted. The jacket is a little more of a hassle, but not too bad. This leaves extra room in my suitcase to pack what I need!

4.) Layer!

Try to layer up your travel outfit as best you can. A tank with a long sleeve shirt, a sweater and then your jacket. That’s 4 articles of clothing that you’re taking on your trip without having to pack them. Of course you’re subject to the temperatures in the airport and you might end up carrying half of those items, but they’re not taking up valuable space in your bag.

5.) Travel Size

I think it’s a good idea to have travel sized shampoos and conditioners set aside in a clear plastic bag ready to go. That way you know you always have them ready & they’re small and easy to throw in your carry on. You can grab samples of things, or if you coupon, you can always get samples that way. Not a huge expense and it makes things easier!

6.) Less is more

For me on my next getaway, I will be traveling with very minimal makeup, accessories, and extras. Obviously this depends on the kind of trip your taking, but instead of packing 4 necklaces, take one that is versatile enough to go with all your outfits. Minimize your makeup collection so that maybe you’re just wearing BB Cream, mascara and blush. You’re traveling with less, but still with just those three items, you’ll still look great!

I hope these travel tips were helpful for you guys!! Now to take my own advice as I pack my bag for Prague, Vienna, and Budapest! I’ll let you know how it goes!

Any tips that you might have to add? Leave them in the comments, I’ll be sure to check before I start packing! :)

Redeeming Halloween: Losing the Scary – Keeping the Fun

I must confess up front that I’ve long had a bit of difficulty loving Halloween.

There are a lot of things about this particular holiday that stress me out, from the gigantic bags full of candy that my children do not need, to the crazy scary costumes and decorations that people put up in their yards. I’m baffled by beautiful homes that are transformed into makeshift graveyards. A palm tree is a gorgeous piece of landscaping, so it confuses me when I see a bloody head hanging from the branches come October 1.

And don’t even get me started on the house in our neighborhood that hangs the scariest looking zombie man over their front door, and sets two bloodied zombie mannequins in the front yard, which they light every night throughout October with strobe lights while evil laughter cackles through a speaker.

These are things I just don’t understand.

 

redeeminghalloween

There are, however, things that I love about Halloween. The official kick off of fall is the first thing. While we don’t get much of the crisp air here in Florida, we do get a reprieve in the weather. Plus, PUMPKIN EVERYTHING!

Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin scented candles, actual pumpkins. Even the Florida heat cannot put a damper on my love of all things pumpkin.

Also, I do love dressing up my children in cute little costumes. No zombie brides for us, thankyouverymuch, but a Punk Rock Gymnast and last minute, homemade Duck Dynasty costumes? Yes, please!

A few years ago, I set out on a quest to understand more about the history behind Halloween. How did the scary-evil get started, and why? I stumbled across a resource that has since become my source of rescue. It is a book title Redeeming Halloween, and was put out by Focus on the Family as a way to educate families on the history of this holiday, and offer tips on ways to enjoy it without diving too much into the darkness.

First, it’s significant to remember the origins of Halloween in order to best understand why we celebrate it in the first place. In A.D. 741, All Hallows, or All Saints Day, was moved on the calendar from May 13 to November 1. The night before All Saints Day was given the reverent title of “All Hallow’ een,” or “the eve of the holy ones.”

It was a time to remember those who had been martyred for the Christian faith. It was a holy time of honor and remembrance. So…what changed?

The stories on the origins of trick or treating are varied, but the most popular historical account traces this practice back to the mid-1800’s when a large population of Irish immigrants who had come to America brought their practice of “mumming” or “masquerading” to the streets of the U.S. Sometimes referred to as “mischief night,” many young people roamed the towns in costume pulling generally harmless pranks, and offering up short plays in exchange for food or drinks.

By the 1920’s this practice grew more harmful, with the pranks becoming more vandalizing and destructive. In an effort to curb this unwanted practice, several neighborhoods and organizations began organizing a night in which “good” children were encouraged to dress up in costume and visit shops and homes to receive treats. At each place they stopped, these children would yell “trick or treat,” and thus a uniquely American tradition was born. To keep uniformity, it was given a place on the calendar.

October 31. All Hallow ‘een.

Halloween.

Of course, there were other pagan practices that infiltrated what was meant to be a holy holiday, but knowing that the roots of this holiday were meant to be more innocent than evil allows me to better guide my children in enjoying it.

One of the ways we do this is by keeping our costumes fun and innocent. I don’t really want to see my children dressed up as bloodied dead people. It creeps me out.

Generally we also try avoid the really scary houses, because I enjoy sleeping and prefer not to be awoken by nightmarish children for a month following what is supposed to be a fun night.

We laugh a lot as a family, enjoy a time of celebration with our neighbors, and eat too much candy. The next morning, we ration the candy out for a couple of weeks. My children don’t ever eat all the candy they receive because our dental bill is high enough already, so after two weeks of enjoying two small pieces a day, we donate the rest of the candy to ministries or dental offices who offer to ship it to our soldiers overseas.

Halloween still isn’t my favorite holiday, but we’ve made enough modifications to how we celebrate that I’ve come to enjoy the event over the years rather than dread it. The worst part, now, is getting them to decide on a costume before the big day rolls around.

How do you celebrate Halloween? Do you have a problem with the dark nature of this holiday? How do you help your young children enjoy the holiday without scaring them half to death?

The Most Delicious Glazed Pumpkin Muffins

Hi everyone!  Kasey from All Things Mamma here!  I’m back this month with another yummy recipe that you’re sure to love!  Last month I shared my recipe for The Very Best (And Healthiest) Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Muffins that our family loves!  This month I’m sharing another favorite muffin recipe that isn’t quite as healthy but IS one I know you will love. Sometimes you have to add a little white flour because it simply makes life better.  At least when it comes to baked goods!  haha!

Glazed Pumpkin Muffins are the perfect treat!

These Glazed Pumpkin Muffins are easy to make, don’t require a mixer, and have great flavor!

Glazed Pumpkin Muffins

Just grab a couple of mixing bowls, mix your dry ingredients in one, wet ingredients in the other and then combine.  It even helps to NOT mix them too much by hand. If you over-mix, your muffins will come out too dense and hard. That’s not a good thing.

Glazed Pumpkin Muffins

You could eat the muffins just like this – right out of the oven and slathered with a little butter. But, if you want to kick them up a notch, whip up a simple powdered sugar glaze to drizzle over the top.  My kids LOVE them this way. It almost turns them into a cupcakes and who doesn’t love a cupcake? I know my kids certainly do.

Glazed Pumpkin Muffins

Either way – they’re going to be delicious.  Bake up a little Fall goodness today with these Glazed Pumpkin Muffins. I promise your family will thank you!

Glazed Pumpkin Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbs pumpkin spice
  • GLAZE
  • I cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbs milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, salt, sugar, pumpkin spice and baking soda.
  2. Mix the pumpkin, melted butter, eggs and oil together.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, until just incorporated. Do not overmix.
  4. Spoon mixture into a prepared muffin tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin. If it comes out clean, it's done.
  5. Cool on a rack before glazing
  6. Mix powdered sugar and milk together - whisking until smooth
  7. Can add more milk if needed to get the consistency you'd like to drizzle on muffins
http://www.extraordinarymommy.com/extraordinary-food/the-most-delicious-glazed-pumpkin-muffins/

Welcoming Baby: Tips for a Smooth Transition

eMom“Who do you like better, her or me?”

He looked up at me over the tiny nose all dotted with freckles as he gripped his new baby sister tightly in his arms. He’s six and a half, so he’s old enough to not be plagued by jealousy over the baby. His place in our family as the funny third born is solid and firm, but I could still see this sparkle of a need as he looked to me for reassurance.

You still like me too, right?

On September 22, we welcomed home our fourth child. She was the surprise baby that we didn’t really expect, but who was so perfectly meant to be a part of our family. Our other three children are older. At 6, 8 and 11, they don’t need as much physical reassurance than younger children might need when bringing home a new baby, but there are still adjustments that need to be made.

I hugged my six year old, the boy who’s been begging us to make him a big brother for years, and I told him that no one could ever take his special place in my heart. He smiled and leaned forward to plant yet another kiss on “his baby’s” forehead. That’s all he needed to hear. He just needed it to be voiced out loud.

As we make this transition from family of five to family of six, I’ve made a conscious effort to include the bigger kids in the transition. Here are a few measures we’ve set in place to make sure the transition goes over as smoothly as possible.

1.) Don’t place too high of expectations on the older children.

Life gets significantly busier when you bring home a new baby. It’s easy to suddenly expect the older children to carry more weight than they’re used to around the house, but that doesn’t make it fair.

My kids aren’t used to being quiet, so I am working to offer grace when they come screaming through the house. I haven’t reacted perfectly every time, but I’m getting there. This has been an especially difficult adjustment for my eleven-year-old, because in case you weren’t aware, eleven-year-old boys are loud. It’s just in their nature to be so.

Learning to be quiet isn’t an easy skill, but he’s trying, and I’m working on my patience when he forgets.

2.) Don’t be disappointed when the newness and excitement of the new baby wears off.

Last night, my eight-year-old informed me that she thought babies were annoying. This was after she endured her sister wailing and fussing for much of the evening, as babies are prone to do.

I gave her a little smile and reassured her that it wouldn’t be this much work forever. But yes, newborns take a certain amount of patience, and I cannot expect an eight-year-old to possess that much understanding. Grace is needed, as is a place for the bigger kids to escape to when the fussy baby becomes too much.

3.) Don’t sweat the small stuff.

With my first-born, I was super vigilant to keep things clean and quiet, and I minimized his exposure to germs at every opportunity.

I don’t have it in me to maintain that level of watch at this point. I did institute the rule that they can’t stick their fingers in her mouth if they haven’t washed them first (they think it’s hilarious when she sucks on their fingers), and that no one but the baby is allowed to suck on the pacifier. (Seriously – I had to make that a rule.)

Other than that, however, I’ve had to relax a bit when the bigs interact with their sister. This is new for everyone. It’s exciting and hard, and it is a huge adjustment. In a few weeks, though, when the haze of these early days finally wears off and we settle back into a routine, I pray that we’ll be stronger as a unit, and that resentment won’t leave any lasting marks on little hearts.

I also pray that the eleven-year-old figures out what an “inside voice” sounds like.

Have any of you welcomed home a new baby with older children in the home? How did you make the transition a smooth one for your older children? 

The Blossoming of Self Esteem: The Minutes, The Months, The Years

Self esteem is a tricky one, friends. I speak not only from experience, but from watching it grow and wane in my ten year old daughter. One day she is on top of the world the very next she lost in the waves of pre-teen anxiety. I wish I could help her to understand that self-esteem is much like a coat we eventually grow in to….at first the sleeves are too long, the buttons feel mis-matched, the bottom trails past our knees, but as we experience life, we learn to look in the mirror, embrace the freckles for the beauty they are, understand that our smile is a reflection of the joy we feel INSIDE, that our hair will figure itself out and those glasses may end up being our favorite accessory.

I look at pictures of  myself from 7th grade.

Danielle 7th Grade

And from 8th grade.

Danielle 8th Grade

And the heartbreaking commentary the younger me has written on the back.

Danielle 8th grade 2

Even now I am clear on the awkwardness felt by this girl. I remember how she felt when she first saw this picture and she realized how others really saw her – the big hair and cheeks, the freckles – oh the freckles…. and yes, that mouth full of braces. (I won’t even touch what I’m wearing)  I know how long it took for this girl to out grow the see-saw ride that is self esteem.

So long that in going through all of the photographs from the 8th grade graduation celebration at the beach I noticed something was missing: Her.

Me.

Danielle 8th Grade Beach Party

I remember so well how I hid from the camera, how I wanted to hide my smile – one imperfect for so many reasons. All I could find were my friends laughing and smiling – clearly enjoying themselves. The memories of that day, of dodging pictures, of keeping my mouth closed – I remember them well. A lack of self esteem can run deep.

I know the girl in these picture above sometimes still feels like she is growing out of it….especially as she watches her own small girl work through the same growing pains. But I’m continuously amazed by how GOOD Delaney is at embracing everything about her that makes her both beautiful and different – including those extraordinary freckles and the glasses she has just started to wear.

Delaney Mom FrecklesBeing a mother has helped me to embrace the beauty of individuality, to value my own self-esteem, to smile bigger than I ever have in my life and to witness a strength of character that I didn’t know could exist in a child so young. I would love to tell you that I deserve the full credit for that, but the truth is this child has developed a sense of self all her own. As with all girls her age, there are moments of weakness, moments she questions herself, worries that she isn’t good enough, but I’m here to remind her of her innate goodness, to help her to lead with her heart and to trust in those freckles…for within each one is the beauty of her. And while she won’t recognize it every moment of every day, I hope the days she DOES are greater in number than those she doesn’t.

For me, the tipping point was my smile. I spent more than two years in braces (see again the pictures above) and in a neck gear. But once it was all over, being able to smile with straight teeth (and without metal) was the beginning of a more confident me. It is amazing how much power resides in a smile. Amazingly now, that two year waiting period doesn’t have to be – as companies like Invisalign exist….allowing teens (and others) to begin to feel confident in the changes in their teeth from Day 1 as the virtually invisible (and removable!) clear aligners begin to work without being visible to everyone around you.

If you or anyone in your family has ever considered using Invisalign – even now as an adult – they have this wonderful Smile Assessment that will help you to understand if you might be a good candidate. Or if you already think you are a good candidate, you can find an Invisalign Doctor near you.

Because Invisalign is so committed to Self-Esteem, they are hosting the Invisalign Countdown to Confidence Daily Instant Win Sweepstakes everyday until November 1st. Invisalign is awarding one winner $100 each day plus a chance to win the grand prize: free Invisalign treatment and $1,000! Enter here. (The Sweepstakes ends 11/1/14)

What makes you feel most confident? Your smile? Your favorite outfit? A good hair day? Inner confidence? The best compliment from your kids? I’d love to know.

Disclosure: I’m happy to have partnered with Invisalign to share this post with you. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

Best Bath Products (Make A Home Spa, You Deserve It!)

best-bath-products

You deserve a nightly spa treatment

The most decadent and important thing that I do for myself is take a long, luxurious bath most nights. Blessed with a full life with three children, a heavy work schedule, packed days and frenetic early evenings carting the kids to activities, my nightly bath keeps me sane.

I have spent years, years I tell you!, nursing babies, cajoling toddlers and pleading with preschoolers to go to sleep. However now all three kids are so wiped out after their own busy days, by eight or nine o’clock the night is mine.

My bath has become my new nightcap.

Baths are healthy

The benefits of a great bath are wide and wonderful. A bath before bed promotes better sleep, especially when combined with a break from electronic devices. The warm water relaxes your muscles, soothing them after stresses both physical and psychological. Combine your bath with a hot cup of herbal tea and a good book, and you have created a haven in the midst of your crazy world.

With the children back in school and carpools, PTA meetings and sports practices in full swing, you totally deserve that haven.

Great product picks

A hot bath is one of the few luxuries in life that is still completely free. However, it is easy and uber affordable to up your bath’s home spa factor with a few reasonable add-ons. Here are my favorites.

Calgon Lavender Vanilla Bubble Bath $3.50 - Now I finally really “get” those old school “Calgon, take me away commercials.” This is the most sudsy, sweet smelling and reasonable bubble bath I have ever used. The lavender vanilla fragrance is so calming.

CVS Essence of Beauty Eucalyptus with Mint Oil Foaming Bath Soak $10 - This combination of sea salts and essential oils of eucalyptus and mint is a two-fer of aromatherapy and softening of your skin.

CVS Epsom Salt $5 - This massive bag of epsom salt is so cheap but so helpful to the bod. The magnesium sulfate helps sooth sore muscles, eliminate toxins, reduces bloating plus so many more health benefits. Excess stress and adrenaline are believed to drain our bodies of magnesium, a natural stress reliever, and epsom salts help replete our stores.

Aura Cacia Essential Oil $10-20 per .25 oz – After dumping in a cup of epsom salts, add some drops of your favorite soothing essential oil. Right now I’m into frankincense…yes, as in the Wise Men. It has a incense-y, earthy smell I find relaxing.

LUSH Bath Bombs $5-6 - If you have seen the LUSH stores in your local mall, you know that it looks like a candy store. These big globes of foaming bath salts and fragrant oils are candy treats for your skin. Many of them turn your bath water to fun colors and they are so much fun to watch fizz and pop. You will emerge from your bath feeling decadent and perfumed.

Now what are you waiting for? Start those faucets!

Go Easy, Go Fun – Late Night and Mid-Day Snacks My Family Loves: Think Cereal

I have spent the past two weeks trying to get my husband’s attention. Unless I’m wearing red and reciting stats for the St. Louis Cardinals, I’m pretty much out of luck. He wandered in to my office the other day to tell me he had just been listening to national broadcast announcers talk about the Cardinals win over the Los Angeles Dodgers and he may or may not have been tearing up, “I just feel so proud…it is like they are talking about a member of my family .”

Yes, you are correct if at this moment you are thinking my husband’s love of not only the game of baseball in general, but in particular his love of the Redbirds is extreme, but I’m here to tell you, it is real. So, when we aren’t at the Playoff games, we are parked on the couch watching. Not talking, but watching. When he is especially nervous, Jeff is holding his bat, pacing the room, or snacking to keep himself focused.

Kelloggs Late Night Snacks - Cereal is a favorite.

His late night snack of choice has always been cereal. Now, unlike the average bear, Jeff may have a few bowls, but now that Kellogg’s has introduced us to a few of their late night cravings cereals – ones that are ideal for that ‘beyond-breakfast-bowl-of-cereal’ – like Krave Chocolate and his absolute hands-down favorite Special K Chocolate Almond – I have a truly difficult time keeping it stocked in the house. ESPECIALLY DURING ST. LOUIS CARDINALS’ PLAYOFFS.

And, true to the phrase, like-father-like-son, the small dude has taken to finishing his dinner, having a little dessert, but saving all of his extra tummy room for his favorite snack – cereal. Now, Coop prefers Frosted Flakes or Fruit Loops...clearly he’s a child after my own heart. Also note: when I’m nervous, I also eat. Lots of late night snacking in our future this baseball-filled week.

Kelloggs Cereal Snacktime - Cereal - not just for breakfast anymore - delicious snack options.

But in our house, cereal snacking is not reserved strictly for evening when we are avoiding treats. My small people also love having cereal as a snack for school and after school and we’ve found a way to make a few ‘mixes’ that combine a few of their favorite flavors (and even better – THEY do it!) Just watch!

Easily my favorite part of that video is how many times they sneak bits of cereal while we filmed….but then again, I’m biased. How does cereal fit in to your life? Have you considered enjoying it beyond breakfast? We’ve definitely been creative in the way we make it a nutritious, filling option for us in the morning – you can see the many ways we do that here…. but I’d love to know how you incorporate it for snack time (and desserts!) too.

Disclosure: I am proud to have a long time working relationship with Kellogg’s and am always excited to share my own thoughts and opinions with you. Naturally, everything I share with you is my my very own opinion.