Intruder Drills in Schools: Talking to Your Kids About the Hard Stuff

My husband and I are different. I suppose that isn’t shocking, many couples are made up of opposites. In our case, I’m the ‘feeler’ – I empathize with everyone. Admittedly, it makes it hard to watch the news…, in fact it made it incredibly challenging to cover the news – it is one of the reasons I left the business. I’m constantly finding myself mentally ‘in someone else’s shoes’, crying, heart-hurting, yearning to take even a little bit of that suffering away. My husband on the other hand, can’t handle it, so he’d rather not even hear it if possible. I’ve learned over the years that I can’t go running to him to share other people’s pain, no matter how much I choose to take on. It isn’t that he chooses to bury his head in the sand, rather that HIS heart can’t handle it. And I respect that.

Though there are times he can’t avoid it…..times when the bad news keeps coming – via computer, phone, and TV.

December 14, 2012 was one of those dates. It was the day of the Sandy Hook school shooting. I’d already heard, but he stood in my office door, shoulders slumped, eyes watering and he just said, ‘all those little kids….’ It broke our hearts our hearts for the families. All of those families had a piece of them ripped away that day….

It broke our hearts to know our kids were going to hear about it and be afraid. They did and they were. There were so many questions our kids asked. Many we simply couldn’t answer: WHY it happened? WHY those kids? And inevitably…. as kids do, they wondered if they were safe here at home, at their school. We assured them: yes.

It broke our hearts to know many schools across the country would put new safety measures in to place to protect our children – measures that are needed, but scary nonetheless. And Sandy Hook is just one in a too-long list of tragedies that have prompted this.

Ours has.

Back to School 2014

Shortly after the school year started my small people came home talking about having done an ‘Intruder Drill’. I grew up in Los Angeles… the standard were Fire Drills and Earthquake Drills. Here in the Midwest, Tornado Drills are normal….but ‘Intruder Drills’? The kids had to walk through the ‘what ifs’ of an unknown person entering the school and the alarms that would sound. A child in my son’s class asked, ‘what happens if the alarm goes off while we are in the bathroom?’. The answer as relayed to me by my son: “stand on the toilet, lock yourself in the stall and don’t make a sound, someone WILL come for you, but do not try to go back to your classroom as the door will be locked”.  While this answer makes perfect sense – each teacher needs to protect their classroom full of students, my heart hurts for that ONE student knowing how terrified they would be alone.

And it was this exact sentiment that gave my small dude nightmares the night following the Intruder Drill….despite all of our talks about the teachers. the principal and others who are at the school to protect him as well as my firm belief that this is merely a DRILL designed to keep him and other students safe, and not something I think will ever happen….it is frightening, and I understand that.

It is imperative my children feel safe at school. I fully trust the teachers, administration and coaches who regularly surround my children. I know they will keep them safe. And I know it is my job at home to reinforce faith in them, the overall safety of school and my belief that drills like ‘Intruder Drills’ while they may raise questions for my kids, are designed to protect our little ones.

I’m additionally grateful resourses like the National Education Association exist to offer me ways to talk to my kids about this topic as well as bullying prevention, strategies for academic success and most definitely as we head in to the Winter months - tips for combating Enterovirus D68.

Does your child’s school do an Intruder Drill of any kind? If so…. how did they respond?

Disclosure: This post reflects a collaboration with the National Education Association’s Raise Your Hand for Student Success campaign. All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own.

How to Wear White for Fall

Do you still abide by that old “no white after Labor Day” rule? Well, it’s time to ditch that outdated mentality and embrace white year-round – yes, even for Fall! The key to pulling off the look is creating the perfect pairing of colors and textures that are seasonably appropriate.

A great way to start is to mix white with neutrals. Earthy tones like tans and browns balance out the brightness of white denim. Heavier knit sweaters add a Fall-like texture. how wear white for fall

Layering denim is another way to add an autumnal edge to white. Camo prints and army-inspired pieces like cargo jackets also create the perfect contrast.
how wear white for fall

But wearing white for Fall isn’t just limited to denim. Keep your other white pieces (including your jackets!) in your wardrobe. Mixing a white blazer with distressed jeans and Fall-like patterns, like animal print, also feels appropriate for Autumn!

how wear white for fallHow would you wear white for Fall?

A Standing ‘O’ for a Young Baseball Hero: Goodbye Oscar Taveras

On his 8th Birthday, my son asked for an Oscar Taveras baseball jersey for his gift. Two days prior, the long awaited Major League debut of the St Louis Cardinal’s prospect began with a Heaven Tickling Home Run. In his 2nd big league at-bat, he hit a ball that lifted high enough for the baseball gods to grab the souvenir for themselves. Graciously, the gods decided to allow one of us commoners to keep OT’s first HR. “HE” had arrived.

Cardinal Baseball Jeff Cooper: Goodbye to Oscar Taveras

Last night, my 8-year old son cried himself to sleep.

As I lay in Cooper’s bed holding him and trying to answer his questions, a tear rolled down my cheek as well. I started thinking. Why am I so sad?

Is it because a 22-year old and his 18-year old girlfriend were both killed in a car accident? A tragedy for sure, but unfortunately, this is not uncommon.

Is it because this is the 3rd active St Louis Cardinal in recent memory who has died during his playing career? I was standing across the street from Wrigley Field on June 22, 2002 when Pitcher Darryl Kile was announced as deceased. That game was postponed. I still hold the ticket stub in my wallet today.

Is it because Oscar was going to be Cooper’s “hero” for the next decade and send him off to college? Ozzie Smith made his Cardinal debut when I was about Coop’s age. During the 80’s, every St. Louis kid wanted to play short stop, do back flips and Go Crazy! He played his last game while I was in a lecture hall at Mizzou. My baseball youth ended that day. Now another bird, name beginning with “O” was to assume the role of herO in downtown St. Louis. Coop would follow his career, learn to finish a short swing with a long follow through, and attempt to hit home runs as high as the sky, then head to college with many fond memories thanks to his own standing “O.”

Is it because the kid was drafted by MY TEAM when he was 16 years of age, developed by MY TEAM for over half a decade, brought to the show by MY TEAM to become a superstar, only to have all that go away on a rainy night in the D.R.? That’s the magical kingdom where our game’s greatest talents are discovered at such a young age, not where our game’s greatest talents are to die at such a young age. Admitting a lot of selfishness, I feel betrayed.

Is it because we now have a gaping talent hole in our franchise? Speaking strictly on a baseball level, not at all to be compared to the personal tragedy that has occurred, the Cardinals now have a talent problem. A farm system that was so deep has become real shallow, real fast.

I know this is a strange thought process. I didn’t even understand it myself. Then, at 3:30pm the day following the death of Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend, my answer arrived home from school.

“Dad, I started crying in math class today. Nobody saw me. I covered my eyes. (Cooper’s head drops, he stares at the floor) I just started thinking about Oscar, his mommy, daddy, brothers, his girlfriend, and her family too. (Then, he looks up, with watery eyes) And, it just made me sad.”

Leave it to the 8-year old to bring some perspective.

RIP Oscar, Edilia, and to all of you who left this world too young. There are people down here on earth who miss you. We think of you often, and it just makes us sad.

The last pitch Oscar saw at Busch Stadium was hit off the clouds and into the seats. Home Run. One last Standing O for Oscar.

A Creature of Habit: Breaking the Routine for a Silk AlmondMilk Taste-Test

Every morning the alarm goes off in my bedroom at 4:30am. Don’t you worry – it isn’t for me. It is for my crazy-committed-to-exercise husband. From Monday until Friday, he climbs out of bed before the sun comes up to head to the gym. He is determined to get his exercise in AND spend as much time as possible with our small people. Going at 4:30 in the morning means he is home in time to join the kids for breakfast before school AND he doesn’t take away any afternoon or evening time away from them.

It is one of the many reasons he is extraordinary in his role as a dad. He sacrifices sleep to prioritize time with his kids. But he is also so diligent about prioritizing himself. I, like so many women I know, don’t make exercise or ‘me time’ a priority as it should. His commitment to take care of himself is inspiring.

He arrives home from the gym each morning and does two things: makes breakfast for the kids and a shake for himself. Because I know he is a creature of habit and I also know he will try just about anything that shows up in our fridge to see if he likes it, I decided to make good on a challenge from Silk Vanilla AlmondMilk: do a taste test. Would he try it? Would he like it? So, I replaced the milk he usually uses in his shake with Silk and waited to see what would happen.

As is normal, he filled the blender with his favorite fruits, reached for his traditional milk and found Silk in its place. Do I know my husband, or what? With barely a second thought, he picked up the carton, glanced at the front, shrugged thoughtfully and poured….ready to experiment with something new.

For me, the key would be seeing if he LIKED it. He blended, he poured and he tasted.

And he enjoyed it so much, he shared his healthy goodness with me.

That meant, the only people in our house left to taste-test were my small people. The pickiest of the two? My small girl, Delaney. This girl LOVES her chocolate milk. She’d have it five times a day if I let her. But, being as particular as she is, I wondered how she would feel about me messing with the taste she has always known.

I needn’t have wondered. Just look at her face. That’s the moment she tasted her Silk Vanilla AlmondMilk Chocolate Milk. I’d say Silk passed her taste-test, wouldn’t you?

Have you ever tried Silk AlmondMilk? Here’s your chance. Sign up for their newsletter and you will receive a free coupon to try it. And if you aren’t sure which stores around you carry Silk, let me help you with that.

I’d love to know how you are incorporating Silk in to your family….or how you PLAN to do so. I’d also love to know what you think – is it the flavor? An opportunity to enjoy milk after having been away for a while? Tell me below.

Disclosure: I’m happy to be working with both Silk AlmondMilk and TapInflulence to bring you this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.


Explore St. Louis: 10 Things You Must Do in St. Louis

I did not grow up in St. Louis, but my husband did. We’ve now lived here together for a dozen years and I’m still amazed by all of the options we have to explore the city, to entertain our small people and to ‘travel’ in our own backyard. Not being a Midwest girl by birth, I’m always excited to head out with my kids and see more, do more, experience more of what St. Louis has to offer.

Since I know St. Louis is a beautiful place to visit, I partnered up with Expedia to showcase some of must do activities in St. Louis

Here are 10 Things You Must Do in St. Louis.

The Gateway Arch

Standing 630 feet tall and stretching 630 feet wide, (yes, amazingly it is the SAME height and width!) the Gateway Arch is the tallest man-made monument in the country. Made of stainless steel, the Arch represents the expansion of our country in to the West.

Best places to visit in St. Louis: Gateway Arch

You can climb aboard a pod that will carry you to the top for one of the best views of the city, or take full advantage of the grounds surrounding it.

Best places to visit in St. Louis: Gateway Arch

On beautiful days (like those we have been experiencing in St. Louis) the grass is covered with families throwing frisbees, picnicking, and even teams playing sports.

Best places to visit in St. Louis: Gateway Arch

It is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Winter Hours are from 9am-6pm and during the Summer, hours are from 8am-10pm. As one of the most popular attractions in our fair city, tickets tend to sell out early in the day, so purchasing in advance online would be a good idea. As the grounds around the Arch are being expanded significantly (to be improved by 2015), you will notice construction as you approach, but the monument itself (and the surrounding grounds) are open to visitors.

The Old Courthouse

Located just across the grounds from the Arch, the Old Courthouse holds history from the 1800’s, having been built somewhere between 1839 and 1862. It has the distinction of being the location where slave Dred Scott and his wife Harriet sued for their freedom (the Dred Scott Decision) and where Virgina Minor sued for a woman’s right to vote in 1872. This location, like the Gateway Arch and the Museum of Westward Expansion are all part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park.

Best places to visit in St. Louis: The Old Courthouse

Best places to visit in St. Louis: The Old Courthouse

Within the halls of the Old Courthouse are original courtrooms and a rotunda that will transport you to another time. At eight and ten, I found my children were fascinated by the history and curious about each and every tidbit the halls offered. The walls are covered by murals and photographs depicting St. Louis more than 100 years ago. A 17 minute video shown at the top and bottom of every hour will explain the Dred Scott Decision in detail. This historic venue is free and open year round from 8-4:30.

The St. Louis Zoo

It is impossible to mention any activities in St. Louis without including the St. Louis Zoo. We have visited dozens of times and never tire of the variety of animals, the opportunity to jump on a Carousel or train around the park or the simple fact that this Zoo, unlike those in virtually every other city is free.

Best places to visit in St. Louis: The St. Louis Zoo

The Zoo – first opened in 1910,  is able to boast that it is home to more than 19-thousand exotic animals and my small people have always been fascinated by the history of each and the fact that a number of them are either rare or endangered.

Best places to visit in St. Louis: The St. Louis Zoo Best places to visit in St. Louis: The St. Louis Zoo

Nearly 3-million people visit the Zoo annually. It is incredibly popular not only with local families, but with tourists. Set to expand in the coming years, the Zoo is known for a wonderful Penguin exhibit, a Stingray exhibit, and a Sea Lion show as well as many others. It is open daily from 9am-5pm, but is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

The Magic House

Open since 1979, this Children’s Museum has always operated with the mission to engage kids in creativity and exploration and serve as a ‘home’ to spur on their imaginations. It is filled with such joy that my children have never been able to contain their excitement when we enter. There are construction zones, areas for water play, and sections that focus on experimentation, learning and math. More than 50-thousand local children visit the Magic House each year on field trips, but I found taking my small people and letting them play freely has always been a favorite way to spend a day – especially during the colder months of the year when inside play is a predominant activity. With varied hours throughout the year, (they are closed on Mondays) I recommend heading to their website to confirm before visiting.

The City Museum

If I was to recommend you visit only one attraction while you are here in St. Louis, the City Museum would be at the top of the list. This indoor/outdoor playground is 600-thousand square feet of exploration and imagination. When I mention this location to my small people, their eyes widen and their cheeks flush. There is simply so much to see: four floors of found objects enticing kids (and adults alike) to crawl, climb, and create a world that makes them happy. There are two abandoned airplanes, pieces of old homes, tile, metal tunnels and items used in construction – like old bridges.

Best Attractions in St. Louis: City Museum

Within the building there are areas focused on natural history, on architecture and even the circus. The World Aquarium is accessible for an additional entrance fee ($7.95) and houses sharks, stingrays, an underwater tunnel and reptiles you can hold if you are brave. (My small people are brave. I am not.)

Best Attractions in St. Louis: City Museum Best Attractions in St. Louis: City Museum

The Museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesday, open from 9am-5pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 9am-midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and from 11am-5pm on Sundays. Admission is $12 for everyone ages 3 and up.

Crown Candy Kitchen

As one of St. Louis’ oldest and most popular attractions, this candy shop and soda fountain often has customers lined up outside waiting for a seat or simply wanting to purchase some of their sweets, malts or milkshakes. It was opened in 1913 and STILL feels like a giant step back in time the moment you see the building and then when you enter. It could be the juke box, the old-time collectibles or simply the service, but Crown Candy Kitchen is a treasure. One of the greatest joys is taking some candy ‘to-go’ and then surprising family or friends with some extra goodness. I know my Mother-in-Law loves it when we stop by with a Crown Candy Surprise. They are open Monday through Thursday from 10:30am-8pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 10:30-9pm. They are closed on Sundays.

Grant’s Farm

Once owned by Ulysses S. Grant, Grant’s Farm is magical not only for its history, but for the experience my small people have each time we go. You begin on a tram ride that offers you a view of the 281 acres, an excerpt of the story of the property as well as many of the hundreds of animals that roam free – from buffalos to llamas, from deer to eagles. Moments after disembarking from the tram, my kids find their way to the goats – for $1 a bottle, it is feeding time. We easily spend 30 minutes watching and feeding as my kids start on the outside of the pen and eventually make their way inside to pet and play. We’ve learned those goats are hungry, so they do like to nibble at your clothes as you walk through.

10 Must see attractions in St. Louis: Grant's Farm

As you wander the foot-path through Grant’s Farm, you’ll see many other animals including kangaroos and elephants….and yes camels. Those guys are hungry too. Your last stop will be Bauernhof, the Busch family’s traditional Bavarian farmhouse. Here you will find bratwurst and pretzels as well as a variety of other fare. And for beer lovers, there are samples of Anheuser-Busch beer in the Hospitality Room – these are available to guests 21 and over.

10 Must see attractions in St. Louis: Grant's Farm

Missouri Botanical Gardens

This garden’s beauty flourishes full time – whether Spring or Fall, so there is always so much to see. Different varieties of plants and flowers bloom throughout the year, so one trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens is certain to vary from the next. This time of year (Fall), the rose garden is glorious.

10 Must see attractions in St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Gardens

Yes, the flowers, plants and trees outside are lovely, but we found ourselves fascinated by the Climatron – a climate controlled greenhouse dome that operates as a rainforest. While the Garden was founded in 1859, the Climatron has only been around since 1960. My kids begged for the camera to take shots of the items they found most stunning.

10 Must see attractions in St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Gardens

The Climatron empties you in to a Children’s Indoor Area complete with crafts and opportunities to learn.

10 Must see attractions in St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Gardens

The Missouri Botanical Gardens might seem like an attraction adults would love more than children, but there is so much within the National Landmark that caters to people of all ages – including the smallest among us. My kids were able to run, jump and play their way through the Children’s Garden, across bridges, up stairways and at the water’s edge with boats. (The boats, by the way, ranked as the ‘highlight’ for both of my small people. We sat for close to an hour as they explored and played.)

10 Must see attractions in St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Gardens

10 Must see attractions in St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Gardens

We finished our visit eating in Sassafras Cafe, one of the dining facilities – and were able to sit outside enjoying even more of our beautiful day. The Garden is open daily from 9am-5pm and admission is $8 for adults. Kids under 12 years of age are free, though there is a $5 admission fee for kids between 3 and 12 to enter the Children’s Garden.

The Butterfly House

I have always believed that when a butterfly crosses your path, it signifies positive change in your life. So you can only imagine how beautiful and powerful you feel after coming face-to-face or arm-to-wings with nearly 2-thousand tropical species of butterflies as they fly uninhibited throughout the conservatory garden – a tropical paradise housed in glass – allowing the sunlight to penetrate, but the environment to protect these delicate creatures. I’ve found that the slower you walk, the more still you stand, the greater the likelihood the butterflies to visit you personally.

10 Must See Attractions in St. Louis: Butterfly House 10 Must See Attractions in St. Louis: Butterfly House

Though this attraction is titled within the Missouri Botanical Garden Family, the Butterfly House lives at a different location, in Faust Park in Chesterfield, Missouri. General Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for kids 3 to 12 years of age. It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 4pm.

Forest Park

Beautiful. Extraordinary green space. Open to anyone and everyone. Forest Park has a phenomenal history….having opened in 1876 and playing host to the 1904 World’s Fair, this more than 13-hundred acres has stayed true to the original founder’s vision for more than a century: that St. Louisans wanted a park that “the rich and poor, the merchant and mechanic, the professional man and the day laborer, each with his family and lunch basket, can come and enjoy his own … all without stint or hindrance … and there will be no notice put up to ‘Keep off the grass.'”  Still today, this is all true with walking and running paths, acres available for picnics, family sports or simply an afternoon outside.

In addition to the St. Louis Zoo (highlighted above), Forest Park is home to the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Science Center, an outdoor theater – the Muny and one of our favorites, The Boathouse Restaurant.

10 Must see attractions in St. Louis: Forest Park

With patio dining and the opportunity to rent paddle boats before or after your meal, this dining spot is one we try to visit regularly.

10 Must see attractions in St. Louis: Forest Park

There are so many other attractions within St. Louis, naturally I didn’t touch on them all, but these are some of the highlights and where I would recommend you start when planning to visit OR when thinking about vacationing here at home.

What other St. Louis attractions make your ‘favorite’ list?

DIY Chalk Painted Pumpkins For Fall

One of my favorite times of the year is Fall.  There’s just something about the colors, the crisp air, the warmth from a bowl of soup and chunky sweaters.  I also love to decorate my home for the season.  With some inexpensive items such as mums, pumpkins and leaves, you can have a home that is beautiful and season ready.

DIY Chalk Painted Pumpkins - easier than you think!

One of this season’s trends is painted pumpkins. I’ve seen them at craft fairs and stores and I just love them. But, I don’t love the prices.  So, I decided to paint my own!  Yes, these simple DIY Painted Pumpkins can be yours for close to nothing. Well, besides your pumpkins and paint cost. And if you’re like me and have some paint on hand, you can do it for only the cost of your pumpkins.

DIY Chalk Painted Pumpkins - easier than you think!

I mentioned before that I love Annie Sloan Chalk paint. No. I’m not an ambassador for Annie Sloan (though that would be amazing!) I just love her paints. You can paint practically anything with ease and without prep.  Easy = a project I am all for!  So, for these painted pumpkin, I picked a few of my favorite colors and got to work.

DIY Chalk Painted Pumpkins - easier than you think!

I used Old White, Provence, and Paris Gray for my pumpkins. The colors coordinate with my kitchen.  And since I knew I wanted these pumpkins as a centerpiece, it was a perfect choice.  I used a cheap foam brush that you can get at any craft store and I just painted the chalk paint right on my pumpkins. I let it dry for about 20 minutes and applied a 2nd coat for a little more coverage. Perfect!

DIY Chalk Painted Pumpkins - easier than you think!

I know it’s hard to believe – but that’s it! Just paint on, let dry and display.

DIY Chalk Painted Pumpkins - easier than you think!

Use your pumpkins in a table centerpiece with flowers for a beautiful display. I have a tray in the middle of my table that I change out often for whatever strikes my mood. Or place them around the house for little pops of color and Fall fun. Wherever you decide to place them, they are sure to be a hit.

How to Find a Moms’ Group


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.


They capture the milestones.

Delaney First Communion

Coop First Communion

The ‘remember whens’….


The I want to go backs….


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. There are two ways to win. Here’s how it works: 1) Head to #DonateaPhoto and comment below with the cause you would most like to see benefit OR 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. It would be AWESOME if you did both. The donating is so easy.

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!)
    • OR head to #DonateAPhoto and comment below with the cause you’d most like to see benefit.

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: 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!


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! :)