Busy Moms and Dads: Make Life Easier – There’s an App for That!

Need to make life a little simpler? There’s an app for that!

Actually, there are several. One of the best things about the latest and greatest technology is how much easier it makes daily annoyances and tasks. Busy moms and dads need all the help they can get. Taking advantage of these simple apps can be real time-savers and can help keep any family organized.

Busy Family

Surely you’ve been at the grocery store racking your brain for the ONE item you know you need, but simply can’t remember.

You may have felt that panic, hurrying to the ER with a hurting small one – is that a broken wrist? A concussion? How long will you have to wait?

Or maybe you are simply overwhelmed and looking for a way to tackle basic organization.

Allow us to offer a few downloadable solutions:

Any.Do – This app is the modern world’s to-do list. Super easy to use. Update and organize your tasks. You can stay organized by separating your list into personal and work-related tasks, swipe when you’re finished, and sync up to your calendar with deadlines.

Flannel Animals – Want an educational game to keep your toddler busy and learning when you’re trying to get your work and errands done? Flannel Animals teaches kids from 1 to 4 how to sound out and spell the names of their favorite animals. The sounds and images are colorful and expressive.

ER Express AppER Express – Sometimes, kids get hurt. Next time you have a situation that requires the ER, you can use ER Express to expedite the process. Nothing is worse than when your child isn’t feeling well and then you have to deal with long ER wait times. ER Express allows you to check which emergency room in your immediate area has the shortest line. You can even reserve a spot to get in and out more quickly.

Out of Milk – Forgot the grocery list at home again? No worries! With Out of Milk you can keep your list on you at all times and update as you check things off and new things come up. Syncing and sharing data on this app is completely free so you can avoid multiple purchases with other members of your family.

AirPNP  - This might be one of the most necessary apps out there. Somewhere in public and need to find a restroom? What family hasn’t experienced this inconvenience? With AirPNP you can locate the nearest clean restroom and carry on with your day worry-free!

What apps have made your life easier?

 Thank you to ER Express for sponsoring this post.

The Secrets to Getting Your Kids to Eat Fruit and Vegetables

Before my small people were born, I had some pretty big ideas about what I was definitely going to do and definitely not going to do as a parent.  Remarkable how that list adjusts when you actually ARE a parent, isn’t it?

Suddenly bedtimes are a reward-worthy finish line at the end of your day and you find yourself teaching your three year old to say, “Mommy is not a short-order cook’ as much for your own sanity as the desire to stick to at least ONE of those rules you created in your head pre-kids.

We thought it would be easy to put them to sleep in their own beds, to keep our homes clean, to feed them balanced (and regular) meals, and we envisioned children who would prefer carrots over chocolate simply because it is what we offered them AND it is better for them.

I know.

It isn’t quite that easy. BUT, in that beautiful way that parenting can surprise us, it can be easier (and more fun) than you think. I’m excited to be working with Libby’s to not only create recipes you will enjoy, but to make fruits and vegetables a regular part of your family’s diet.

The Secrete To Getting Your Kids to Eat Fruits and Vegetables

I will be honest, I have a few friends with children who DO reach for carrots, cut peppers, cucumbers and will even order salads. Voluntarily.

I cannot say this loudly enough: I DO NOT HAVE THOSE CHILDREN. Left to their own devices, mine would subsist solely on chocolate and ice cream.

As you will see in the video, getting them involved in the process and creating new recipes is key.

A few additional secrets to keep in mind:

The Secrets to Getting Your Kids to Eat Fruits and Vegetables

  • Don’t make fruit or vegetables the enemy by demanding your kids finish every last morsel on their plate before they are allowed to leave the table.
  • Give them options: choose three vegetables you are considering for dinner and let them choose one. (They may not love any of the options, but knowing they have SOME say is empowering).
  • Recognize that some kids struggle with texture more than flavor. For a young child, the ‘crunch’ of a raw carrot may be too much, but an option like Libby’s Vegetable Cup Diced Carrots might be palatable enough to win them over.
  • When you are on vacation or on the road (baseball and soccer games come to mind) don’t skip out on the healthy options. Seek out opportunities to keep fruits and vegetables in your diet. Libby’s Fruit Cups are portable and as you saw in the video, are perfectly proportioned for toddlers and children.
  • Consider adding some additional ‘healthy’ to dessert. While we often head down the cookies-chocolate-ice cream route for dessert, we can just as easily add fruit to our favorite choice – ice cream, pie or cake for a little spin on a favorite treat. Naturally, the Libby’s Fruit Cups are perfect for this as well.

I so hope you enjoyed both the video and the tips and would LOVE to know if you have any additional secrets to getting fruits and vegetables in to your kid’s diets. Please share away.

I certainly know I’d love to continue expanding Cooper and Delaney’s palate.

Disclosure: I am happy to be working with Libby’s on a series of videos dedicated to including fruits and vegetables in our daily lives. As always, all thoughts and opinions shared on this site are mine and mine alone.

Creating Your Own Kitchen Herb Garden

Hi everyone! Kasey from All Things Mamma here! One of the greatest things about Summer to me is all the fresh vegetables and fruits that are available! From the grocery store to the farmers market to your own backyard, there is an abundance of choices and the prices are just right! This year we decided to add raised vegetable beds to our back yard and planted a ton of vegetables – tomatoes, zucchini, squash, cucumbers and even corn.

Raised Vegetable Beds

I am so excited to gather our bounty and make fresh meals for our family. I’m even more excited to share that bounty with family and friends! That’s the main reason we built two raised beds instead of one this year. Along with our raised vegetable beds, we planted herbs. I have always wanted to have my own kitchen herb garden, but just never got around to doing it – until this year! I planted some of our favorite herbs right in my backyard!

Creating your very own Kitchen Herb Garden with little effort!

Planting your own kitchen herb garden is fairly easy and requires practically zero maintenance, so there’s really no excuse for not planting your own! And, I’m going to tell you how!

Creating your very own Kitchen Herb Garden with little effort!

I decided to plant my herbs in their own container and keep them right outside my back door on the patio. I could have placed them in the raised beds, but I really wanted to see the pretty container garden out my window. So, I picked up a galvanized steel tub from Lowe’s and had my husband drill some holes in the bottom for drainage.

Creating your very own Kitchen Herb Garden with little effort!

I then put a mixture of soil, compost and hummus in the bottom – just like I did in my garden beds. I could have used potting soil from the store, but I couldn’t find an all organic one and didn’t know what was in the mixes. And, since we would be eating it, I wanted as little chemicals as possible.

Creating your very own Kitchen Herb Garden with little effort!

Then it was time for planting! I picked up several of our favorite herbs – basil, rosemary, dill, and cilantro – already in small containers from our local country market store. I love to support local businesses whenever possible. Plus – I love that the employees know their stuff - which plants are good for where and what and how to care for them – good stuff!

Creating your very own Kitchen Herb Garden with little effort!

Pop the herbs into your soil depending on height – I put the tall ones in the back and shorter ones in the front. That’s it! See! I told you it was easy!

Creating your very own Kitchen Herb Garden with little effort!

Place your herbs in a very sunny location and watch them grow! Herbs are very easy to care for because they need practically no care at all. They actually like dryer soil and don’t like to be messed with. That’s my type of garden!  With only a month of growing, here’s how our herb garden looks now!

Creating your very own Kitchen Herb Garden with little effort!

Make sure to snip off fresh herbs every chance you get! Put mint in your tea, cilantro on your tacos and on your pulled pork and basil on pasta and in sauces! You can also freeze your herbs – add herbs to the bottom or an ice cube tray and top off with a little water, oil or butter and freeze. The next time you need a little herbs in the winter, just pull out your labeled cubes and place in your soups, sauces or pan. They’ll thaw in no time!

Fish Tacos with Jalapeño Mango Salsa

There you have it! A simple and no fail plan to plant your own kitchen herb garden this summer! What’s your favorite herb and what’s your favorite way to use it? I’d love some new ideas!

Break Out of Your Summer Grilling Rut: Try Pizza!

I am the ‘chef’ in the family. Think ‘chef’ loosely translated to ‘loves to cook, willing to experiment, is the main food-creator in the family, but isn’t winning awards’. I’m comfortable with this role since, as I mentioned, I do like to cook (and when I cook, my husband and kids always clean up), but sometimes it is nice to pass the duties off – allowing other people in your home to jump into the kitchen.

For nine months of the year my family asks me, ‘what’s for dinner?’. I always have an answer, but that doesn’t guarantee they are going to love what I make or avoid turning mealtime in to a marathon if they aren’t enjoying each dish. But come Summer, I am excited to say, I’m often offered a reprieve as my husband turns to the grill.

This is the ONLY time he loves to cook….when he can barbecue for our entire family – producing some of the meals we love the most. Like you, he has mastered all of the typical grill favorites: hot dogs, hamburgers, steak… and he’s even added a vegetables to his repertoire, but it is more than a little bit fun to branch out – for him as the ‘chef’ and the rest of us as the ones enjoying the meal.

What do I mean by branching out? I mean trying something we don’t frequently put on the grill.

What about pizza?

Beat Summer Grilling Boredom - Jack's Pizza Yes, PIZZA.

I’m excited to be working with Jack’s Pizza to highlight a simple and delicious way to enjoy Summer grilling beyond the basics. Are you bored by the Summer standards? A recent survey conducted by Jack’s pizza says you are looking for a little something different. Take a look: Eight of ten respondents surveyed are fatigued by doing what we ALWAYS do and are looking for more when it comes to their grilling options.

And? Up to 50% of you always have hamburgers on the menu.

Every time. Summer Grilling Boredom - Infographic Now, don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with enjoying the foods we have always loved on the grill, but I have to confess, the taste of grilled pizza is something I know you are going to love.

I was thrilled by how quickly the pizza disappeared (no leftovers around here) and how excited everyone was to do it again.Not to mention, the time it takes to go from frozen to grilled? A magical 12-15 minutes.

It works a little something like this:

You look for the Jack’s pizzas with the ‘Great for Grilling’ packaging in the freezer of your local grocery store.

We chose cheese (for my small people) and pepperoni and sausage for the adults.  (Keep in mind there are more than 20 different varieties including meats and vegetables.)

Beat Summer Grilling Boredom - Jack's Pizza You keep your pizzas frozen until you are ready to go. Summer Grilling with Jack's Pizza You pre-heat your gas grill to 400 degrees.

You place the pizzas DIRECTLY on the grill. Start your timer: check back on them in about 7 minutes – if necessary, spin them on the grill so everything is heating evenly

. Relax  and enjoy as your significant other (in my case – my master-griller-husband) keeps an eye on the melting cheese and grilled crust. Beat Summer Grilling Boredom - Jack's Pizza You will be able to tell by the melted cheese and crispy crust when you are ready to move the pizzas from grill to plate…in our case, it was about 13 minutes. Beat Summer Grilling Boredom - Jack's Pizza Watch your family dive in. Beat Summer Grilling Boredom - Jack's Pizza And hope there is some left for you to enjoy.

I loved that there were so many options to choose from, that the grilling instructions are clearly marked on each pizza and incredibly easy to follow. I loved that it was less than 15 minutes from the time we started grilling until the moment I was able to slice the pizza and offer it to my family.

I LOVED that we were grilling something different from the standard barbecue fare we typically stick to during the Summer months. I loved the ‘grilled’ taste of each pizza – gooey cheese with a crispy crust – and I loved that we finished our meal with no leftovers since everyone in the family kept coming back for ‘just one more piece’.

Have you ever grilled pizza before? You’ll have to let me know what you think when you try it.

And? For 12 weeks this Summer, Jack’s Pizza is giving away a new gas grill every week. To enter, head to their Facebook page, share a picture of a Jack’s Pizza on your grill and definitely cross your fingers. Good luck! (and don’t forget to let me know what your favorite pizza might be AND what you think about adding grilled pizza to your Summer rotation.)

Disclosure: I’m excited to be working with Jack’s Pizza on their Summer Grilling program. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

How to Host Summer Bridal and Baby Showers

Mini Layer Cakes

When I think of summer parties, I think of baby showers and bridal showers.  Did you know that the most common month to have a baby is August and the most popular month to get married is June?  Talk about busy times for hosting showers.

I love to host baby and bridal showers.  However, summer can be a tricky time for getting all of the food together.  You want to make sure all the foods are easy to eat with your fingers.  And more importantly, nothing too messy.  A bridal shower is not the time to serve hot wings and bean dip. [Read more...]

Raising Confident Dreamers

“Mom, I have three different things I could do when I grow up, and I don’t how to decide.”

I suppressed a smile at the earnest concern in her voice. Genuine worry laced her eight year old face, and I pulled her close to me on the couch. This is the child who hates to make decisions. She’s so fearful of making the wrong decision that even breakfast can turn into an ordeal of tears if not handled with grace and patience.

“Well,” I said gently, “what are your options?”

“I want to be a gymnast’s coach, a soccer coach, or a doctor. But I also want to be a mom. How will I decide what to do?

My first born ambled up at that point. He’s trapped in that phase right now between boy and man. He’s long and sinewy, all knees and elbows. He still dreams like a child, but I see the practicality creeping in.

“I’m going to be a missionary,” he says. “I want to help people who don’t have anything. Or…” he pauses, conflicted. “Well, I kind of want to be a professional golfer, too.”

They both look at me then, as though I will have all the answers to these life decisions that seem so important right now. Before the youthful freckles have faded, and the white blonde strands of hair darken into a more mature golden, they want to know the future. They want me to tell them what to do.

Because isn’t that my job?

stlhandstand2

I am a dreamer by nature. When I was eight, I wanted to be a famous movie star. I envisioned accepting my Oscar, and by the time I was 12, I had my acceptance speech crafted to near perfection.

At 15, I left the boundaries of my own country for the first time, and my eyes were torn open at the sight of Belorussian children singing and dancing in an orphanage in Minsk, Belarus. My life focus shifted, and continued to shift through high school, throughout college (and the four different majors I declared), into marriage, and again when I had children.

As practicality and maturity set in, my dreams shifted, but I never stopped dreaming. I never assumed that my life would stop at motherhood. That became just a part of the dream.

My parents never allowed me to set boundaries on my aspirations. They encouraged travel, they pushed me into new experiences, and they never laughed at any of my lofty goals, even when they knew my dreams were outside the bounds of reason. They listened as I spoke of opening an orphanage in Russia, of writing ten best selling books before I turned 30, and of somehow still getting that ever elusive Oscar.

They didn’t squelch a single dream. They simply gave me space to figure out which ones were really worth pursuing.

This is how you raise a confident dreamer.

As I looked into my children’s eyes, I knew they didn’t really need the answers, because the truth is, I don’t know the outcome of their futures any more than they do. Their story is still being written, and I have the awesome privilege as their mother of watching it play out.I get to nurture and guide them in their gifts and talents. In fact, I  see the gifts that they don’t even recognize in themselves yet.

My daughter blinked up at me, her big eyes imploring me to tell her which profession to choose. I gave her a hug, and cupped her face in my hands. “You don’t have to know the answer right now,” I told her with a smile. “Your only job as you grow up is to dream. Dream of the big things and the little things, and don’t be afraid of your dreams. Chase them. I will be right behind you cheering you on, praying for you, and pushing you toward the best possible path.”

Someday they will be grown, and they will be on their own. They will have to navigate the path before them, and my prayer is that they will see and understand the natural gifts and bents that the Lord has blessed each of them with. Until that time, though, my job as mom is to simply give them the freedom to dream. There are no boundaries in dreams.

That’s what makes them so fun.

What about you? What are you doing to raise confident dreamers in your home?

How to Sell Kid’s Clothes with ThredUp

Two.

That’s how many shoe sizes both of my small people have jumped in the past few months. Add that to the growing list of new items they need as we are finally heading in to the warmer months and it looks like a new wardrobe will soon fill their closets.

Cooper’s pants and shorts are all too short for him, his shirts are rapidly becoming too small in the arms and waist, Delaney’s jeans still fit in the waist, but definitely not in length and she has absolutely decided her own personal style DOES NOT include dresses.

This means that her closet has never-worn items, many with tags still attached.

At this age, it seems that cleaning out their closets is a ‘must-do’ at least three to four times a year.

But what to do with all of those beautiful clothes that just don’t fit their style or their bodies anymore?

I have an answer for you: thredUp.com. It is much like a consignment store, only better (and more simple). ThredUp allows you to make money from your gently used, brand name items AND shop for new women’s and kid’s clothes all in one place.

How to sell Kids' Clothes on ThredUp

How does it work? Easy.

I could walk you through their ‘How it Works’ process by writing it down right here for you, but I thought it would be easier (and more fun) to SHOW you…so I created this video.

After filling the bag you see in the video with my kid’s clothes, I dropped it off at FedEx. Easy-peasy.

Now, I wait to hear what they decide to keep and? I shop for new items to replace all of those clothes my kids can no longer wear (or in Delaney’s case – many of the items she no longer wants to wear).

As I’m searching for new pants, shorts, sweatshirts and shirts they will love, I can filter the clothes not only by category – shirts, skirts, shorts, but also by size, color and brand… to make sure I find just what I need.

How to Sell Kid's Clothing on ThredUp

And yes, I will confess to finding myself looking at least as much through the women’s section as I am through the kid’s. The dresses, the bags,  the SHOES. Once you find the items you love, it is an exercise in self-discipline to avoid filling your shopping cart to overflowing.

How to Sell Kid's Clothes on ThredUp

I would so love to know if you have had the chance to use ThredUp and if so, what did you love about the process?

If you want to get started, Order a free clean out bag from thredUp AND Use code Summer25 to get 25% off your first thredUp purchase (the code expires on 7/30/2014)

I’m excited to update you on my results and walk you through the process when I clean out MY closet. Coming soon.

Disclosure: I’m excited to be working with ThredUp to showcase just how they work. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone. 

Lessons from the French on Feeding our Children

There have been quite a few books out recently that speak to the French lifestyle. French Women Don’t get Fat, Bringing up Bébé, and French Kids Eat Everything just to name a few. Honestly, although I’m interested, I haven’t read any of them, but I have lived abroad on and off for the last 7 years and have seen and learned quite a few things from the French. Last time I was here I shared 5 things American can learn from the French because although I am proud to be American, I think there is always room for growth. Today I wanted to share a few things the French do in getting their kids to eat healthy.

7 lessons on feeding our children we can learn from the French

Now I am not French, so I can only speak to what I’ve noticed while I’ve been living there. If you’re French or know more than I do about French culture, please weigh in! It’s always fun to hear other people’s opinions & experiences.

Family Meals

The French families I’ve met and had relationships with all make a solid effort to have meals together as a family as often as possible. So much so that they get their kids from school and have lunch as a family as well. Obviously in America this isn’t possible as not everyone gets a 2 hour lunch break, but the idea behind the family meal is huge. I personally love it. Even though we don’t get to do it as often as I’d like, we still do our best to make it a priority.

No choices

The French mom is no short-order cook. She makes dinner and the kids/family eat it. There are no negotiations, no special orders, no “I’d rather go hungry!” tantrums. It’s like it’s ingrained in their culture or something: if the food is given to you, you eat it. I’m sure there are exceptions in French families, but across the board in my experience the family eats the same thing all together.

Variety

French meals are amazing! They cook a variety of fish, beef, soups, chicken, duck, and so much more. I don’t know if there are certain recipes passed on for generations, but I love it. Some of them are a little odd and I have a hard time trying them (i.e. you can find snails in the freezer section at the grocery store) but mostly a variety of food is presented to the kids. It’s also done at an early age – often before the first birthday so the kids are already used to expanding their horizons.

Schools back parents up

Remember all those foods up there I just mentioned? They are also served in schools. Yep, you read that right, my sons have been served a fish ratatouille for lunch. And eaten it. Things you will never find at lunch in a French school: chicken nuggets, pizza, or burgers which are pretty much on rotation in American schools. It makes so much more of a difference knowing that you’re not alone. The school the parent’s choices. It’s great.

It’s expected

It’s funny, because originally after reading the menu from my sons’ school my thoughts were “well, good luck getting my kid to eat that.” Then he would come home from school and tell me he ate his whole lunch. And that he liked it. Incredible! I caught onto this and at home I’ve started offering my kids a different variety of vegetables like it was no big deal. I put it on their plate and they are expected to eat it. And they do. Without complaining. It’s really incredible. I think we naturally assume that kids aren’t going to like a particular food, but if it’s presented in a way where they are expected to eat it and it’s actually something we like and tastes good, they’ll eat it.

I am very aware this does not go across the board for all kids as some are pickier than others, and if they are older it will probably be more of a challenge. The French start out this way which is probably what makes their kids better eaters.

Fresh Food

Grass-fed beef? Ya, that’s not a ‘thing’ in France. You know why? Because all their beef is grass-fed! Amazing! I can drive 10 minutes outside of my town and see the beef I buy at the grocery store. They also have a plethora of open-air markets or farmer’s markets where you can buy the best from right around your area. It’s so refreshing.

Well, there you have it. Six things the French are doing right with their food. Let me know if you have any other suggestions – we’d love to hear them.

The Art of Fighting Summer Boredom

I counted down for this. I crossed off days on my calendar. I cursed Mother Nature every single time she allowed the temperatures to drop beneath seventy degrees, forever prolonging what could only be described as the longest Winter ever. She dragged her feet, toying with me, giving us a teaser of what *might* be to come if ever we could warm up and stay there….only to feel the plummet of a twenty degree drop in 24 hours.

And yet, somehow, Summer finally arrived.

The warm weather, the BBQ’s, the time at the pool,  the freedom that comes with longer days and for our small people – no school.

This is the beautiful, peaceful period of time when moms, dads and kids everywhere are no longer required to stick to the strict schedule that school requires. No lunches to be made and packed, no Science Fair projects to create, no homework to complete. I remember this season well and I know my children, and yours, have likely been looking forward to it for quite some time.

Our days are packed with camps and laughter, sports, time with friends and vacation.

Also tucked within our days? The phrase I dislike most on the planet, “Mom….I’m BORED!”. It is only now that I am a parent that I can fully comprehend the way that grates on the nerves and causes frustration for any mother or father. How can you be BORED when surrounded by toys, games, electronics and the opportunity to run, jump and play? Rather than fight this battle one day at a time, we have instituted a BOREDOM policy.

I think it just might be helpful to you as well.

My small people are only allowed to come to me AFTER they have explored the options laid out below.  At eight and ten years of age, I’m confident they can begin to take ownership for their time AND allow me to keep what is left of my sanity.

Fighting Summer Boredom - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Be creative – As video games, iPods and the computers permeate our lives, it may seem like an easy fix to allow your child to park themselves on the couch (or worse, in their room with the door closed) and drain the hours of their Summer days online. In our home, this is not an option. This directive: Be Creative - requires thinking. Come up with your own game, draw, paint, whip out karaoke and sing a song, knock on a friend’s door, teach a friend how to ride their bike or create a scavenger hunt. This may initially take some prompting as it seems our kids are rarely prompted to use their imagination, but it is so worth it.

The Art of Fighting Summer Boredom: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Offer to help around the house – Yes, it is true….this option is blatantly self-serving, BUT it teaches your kids a few valuable lessons: 1) their help is valued, 2) it enables them to be an active part of the home and household, and 3) kids who grow up knowing how to empty the dishwasher, sort laundry and clean their rooms rather than having the expectation of being waited on, will make strong, independent and responsible young adults. Give them a list of options that might be helpful: walk the dog, set the dinner table, water the plants, tend the garden or clean their closets. Fact: this may elicit your first experience with eye-rolling, but it is a good time to explain how their help is GOOD for the family.

Read – Parked right in the middle of their BORED directive, reading is hardly the ’3rd best’ option. It happens to be one of my favorites. I have one child who LOVES to read, barreling her way through a 300-page book in two days, and the other who needs to constantly be reminded of the value of reading. I’m hoping this Summer is his tipping point. Consider signing your children up for a Summer Reading Program through your local library. The incentives may be enough to have them seeking a few authors (and characters) to love.

Fight Boredom This Summer: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Enjoy the outdoors – When I was a child, it was common to be directed outside during the Summer. Do the same in your home: challenge the neighborhood kids to a kickball game, grab a ball and bat, create a chalk drawing, start a Lemonade Stand, search for four-leaf clovers, or throw on your bathing suits, whip out the hose and cool off. The options are endless.

The Art of Fighting Summer Boredom: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Do something special for someone else – It is never too early to encourage a giving nature in your children. Offer to play with the younger kids in the neighborhood (giving the Mom or Dad a break), make a card for someone you love, water your neighbor’s plants, or simply go through your own toys to see what you might donate.

Good luck combating Summer boredom and enjoy the beautiful, warmth of the season. Please do share any secrets you might have for keeping kids busy and happy.

How to Look Your Best in Your Swimsuit

look-your-best-in-your-swimsuit.jpg

I think you look gorgeous, perfect, splendid. To paraphrase Billy Joel, I like you just the waaaay you arrre. But if you are like me, you are thinking about wearing your swimsuit this summer and you are feeling a little less than confident. Whether you range from the wee bit worried to full-on panic, here are some easy tips you can do before suiting up that will make tying on that tankini a little less nerve-wracking.

Treat 

Hit the drugstore for some affordable products that will make your skin shine. A little tea tree oil will quickly eliminate any back blemishes, and a lotion with alpha hydroxy and lactic acids will take care of those little red bumps on the backs of arms (thanks a lot winter wool sweaters!) and soften rough knees and elbows. My favorites are Out of Africa Pure Tea Tree Oil and AmLactin lotion.

Tan (Sunless) 

The sun is bad for our skin, yes, yes, yes, but we cannot deny that a little color makes us feel more sleek and sexy in our swimsuits. While you are in those drugstore aisles, pick up a gentle self-tanner. Do not be scared, these products have come a long way since the orange gels of our youth! The most natural ones to consider are the new sprays, such as Neutrogena Sunless Tanning Spray Micro Mist, or wipes, such as L’Oreal Paris Sublime Glow Self-Tanner Towelettes. Both methods provide a streak free alternative to lotions. I have also been known to enjoy the cool, refreshing, confidence-boosting spray of a Mystic Tan booth. Priced at about $20 a session at tanning salons, this UVA-free device delivers self-tanner evenly, privately and quickly onto your bod.

Toes

Pop into your favorite nail salon or pop a fav DVD into your player and get your pedicure on. Buffed heels and shiny painted toes always make me stand a little straighter, walk a little taller and feel a whole lot cuter when I hit the beach or pool. I often do my own pedi at home, and I just tried the beauty editor favorite BabyFoot to take the winter and walking-on-hardwood callouses off my feet. It was incredible! I also usually go for a nude-colored nail polish on my toes — I swear it makes my legs look longer. I love how Essie nail polishes come in every possible neutral and skin tone, from the palest porcelain to the deepest mahogany.

Tone

Making my classes at the gym a bigger priority during swimsuit season, never mind the scale or changing my size, always makes me feel better in my swimsuit. A weight-lifting class makes me more aware of the muscles in my arms and legs, and even makes them look slightly more defined that day and the next. A yoga or Pilates class reminds me to keep my core tight when I am walking around in my suit, and to stand with better posture. I also believe that taking care of and using my body helps me appreciate it more when it is wearing less clothing. (Of course, we should exercise several times a week all the time, yeah yeah yeah, but this is an article about looking hot in our suits, not health!)

Tame

Landscaping. Mowing the lawn. Waxing the surfboard. You know what I am talking about. Pick your poison and do it the day before you suit up. If you must shave, use a brand new blade. I recommend the Sally Hansen Zero Bumps Spray for afterwards to help prevent red bumps and ingrown hairs. Also wearing completely cotton, loose-ish fitting underwear the day after helps the newly-shorn skin heal. If you do not have terribly sensitive skin, depilatories developed especially for the bikini line will last you longer than shaving.

But a pro bikini wax is the best way to stave off the red bumps and concerns about gardening duties. It really does keep you (un)covered for a month or more, and I find this helpful as a swim team mom who is at the pool with her kids every day in the summer.

Shop

This is a no-brainer, but make sure you really, really like your swimsuit. If you feel icky about your suit, it is hard to send the love to the hottie inside it. Although I shop online for almost everything else, a swimsuit is one item you really need to try on.

I love to go to stores with knowledgeable sales staff who help thousands of women find their perfect suits. I know I can walk into my local Athleta or Everything But Water and the gals there can look me up and down and grab the suits that will flatter my figure. All the different boobs, booties, tummies, legs and backs on the planet? They have seen ‘em, and they know what works. If you have a large bust, I also recommend Intimacy. This lingerie shop with 12 U.S. locations has a great selection of swimsuits available with cup sizing in addition to traditional sizes. I personally found my best suits ever here because the suits provide ample room in the chest but then nip me in everywhere else.

Strut 

You are beautiful. You are hot. You look fabulous in your swimsuit (and trust me, your love totally agrees!) As Audrey Hepburn said, “happy girls are the prettiest girls.” Be happy with your healthy, beautiful body, proud of all those products you slathered and painted on it, proud you worked out, proud of that cute new suit. Now throw on your most glamorous shades, a sundress or sarong as your cover-up, and walk to that mother-baby swim class like you were walking the runway. You are my Naomi, my Cindy, my Christy and darling, you are fiiiiine.

Jessica McFadden is a mom of three who wears a swim suit more often now than she did when she was 19. She tries not to think about that too much at A Parent in America