Stop Texting and Driving: It Can Wait

Delaney was probably 18 months old when she started to follow me around, arms up, saying ‘hold you….Mommy, hold you?’ It took me a moment, but I realized she was imitating me…repeating what she had heard me say to her over and over again, ‘Do you want Mommy to hold you?’

After that, it was noticing the way Cooper holds his fork and stops to hold the door open for people…and the way Delaney buries her nose in a book and keeps her iPod close by for constant checking. It’s the way they play ball in the house and raise their voices when they are angry.

Small people don’t simply do as you say, they do as you do.

They pay attention, they pick up your habits, both good and bad. (the ball in the house? Shockingly, that’s my husband.)

ATT It Can Wait

And the older they get, the more crucial it is that your habits are ones that don’t put your kids in any danger. Like texting and driving. According to stats compiled by Texting And Driving Safety, the minimal amount of time eyes are taken off the road to read a text is 5 seconds – if you are driving 55 mph – that is equal to the length of a football field with NO EYES ON THE ROAD. Now consider this – 48% of young adults have been in a car with someone who was texting and driving.** Do you want your child to be in the car with someone who drives blind for the length of a football field? Do you want to be that driver?

Because I feel so strongly about it, I’ve partnered with AT&T to tell you about their new It Can Wait campaign. The goal of the campaign and the accompanying app, DriveMode is to convince people like you and me to stop texting while we drive and stay focused on the road.

ATT It Can Wait DriveMode

DriveMode is free on both iOs and Android and it works seamlessly to silence incoming messages. You can set it up to turn on automatically when you drive (hitting 15mph or higher and turns off shortly after you stop) or you can turn it on manually.

AT&T customers can also customize an auto-reply that lets senders know you are driving and will get back to them soon.

ATT It Can Wait DriveMode

Additionally, you can use #X as the new ‘shorthand’ before you get behind the wheel to let your friends and family know you’re pausing your conversations and you’ll be offline while you are driving. Demi Lovato shows how she’s using it in this quick video. Parents of young drivers can set up the app to text them if their teen turns it off.

ATT It Can Wait DriveMode

The alternative? I can lend you my small dude. Coop would be happy to ride in your back seat and remind you to keep your hands off your phone while your driving. And honestly – he’s right – because he and his sister?

They are worth it.

In case you need some extra convincing… this video is a painful, but honest reminder of the toll text messaging has been taking on families…especially those of young adults as texting and driving is now, according to the Cohen Children’s Medical Center, the leading cause of death among teenagers – having surpassed drinking and driving. As of 2013, there were more than 3-thousand teens dying each year. And more than 50% of teens admit to texting while driving.** Maybe have them take a look at the reality of the loss…. this video or this one might be a place to start.

Then download DriveMode. And finally, join the nearly 6 million people who have already taken the pledge to STOP TEXTING AND DRIVING.

Make sure you are the example they need, that they know they (and you) are worth it and It Can Wait.

Thank you for being her.

**TextingandDrivintSafety.com

**Safety.Trw.Com

Disclosure: While I was not compensated to share this program with you, I was gifted an iPhone 6 from AT&T to experience the DriveMode app. As always, all thoughts and opinions shared here are mine and mine alone. 

Five Ways to Wear a Blanket Scarf

I don’t know about you, but when it gets really cold outside, all I want to do is wrap myself up in a blanket. I’m not alone here, right?! Unfortunately with a job and a baby at home, staying snuggled on the couch 24/7 is not a possibility. But a great alternative for those times when you actually have to leave the comfort of your home? The blanket scarf! Yes, they are actually big enough to double as a blanket, and there are so many different ways you can style them!

1. Triangle Wrap

triangle wrap blanket scarf

Fold diagonally into a triangle. Center the triangle at your chest and wrap the two ends around your neck.

2. Rectangle Drape

how wear blanket scarf

Fold in half into a rectangle. Continue to fold until you have the thickness you desire. Drape around your shoulders!

3. Belted

belt a blanket scarf

You can belt the scarf in many different ways. Here I did the rectangle drape a bit thicker, but try it folded smaller as well!

4. Twisted and Looped

how wear blanket scarf

If you feel completely swallowed by your scarf, then this is the best way to eliminate some volume. After folding into a triangle, twist your scarf. Then half it and pull the ends throw the loop!

5. Shawl

shawl blanket scarf

Do a triangle fold, but put the triangle at your back. Loosely tie the ends for a shawl look!

Looking to snap up a blanket scarf of your own? You can get a look-alike version of mine from Amazon! There are also cute, inexpensive options from Target and ASOS. Happy blanket scarf wearing!

five ways to tie a blanket scarf

Family Resolutions: Make 2015 Your Best Year Yet

NewYears2

It’s that time of year again.

The time of year when we write down a list of ambiguous, unrealistic resolutions for ourselves – goals that we more than likely won’t accomplish because what does “Eat Healthier” really mean, amiright? Does it mean one spoonful of Nutella instead of two, or should I start Pinning fancy recipes for Kale and Brussel Sprouts now?

In recent years, the idea of making New Year’s Resolutions has become less popular. I think we’ve all come to realize that we set ourselves up for failure using the traditional resolution model of the past.

There is something invigorating about the first of the year, though. It teems with possibility and in many ways it feels very much like a fresh start. Setting plans for the coming year doesn’t have to be stressful, as long as we do it the right way.

In recent years, I’ve enjoyed bringing my kids in on this little goal setting tradition. It’s fun to sit down together as a family and discuss where we’d like to be as a unit in a year.

Kids love to set goals. It makes them feel safe when life is predictable.

How children set their goals, though, will depend almost entirely on their personalities and, to a lesser degree, their birth order. Most (not all, of course) Type A first borns will want to set very high, lofty goals (get all A’s on my report card), while feisty second borns will set the bar much lower (eat ice cream every day).

Setting goals as a family is a fun way to tap into your children as unique individuals, and it gives you shared direction as a unit heading into the New Year. Here are a few tips to get you started.

1.) When you sit down with your children, have a few loose goals in mind to help drive the conversation. This is more necessary with younger children than with teenagers. By already having a few suggestions written down, you can keep the conversation from derailing into suggestions such as “Hold a Koala,” or “Ride a giant turtle.”

Both of which do sound kind of awesome, actually.

2.) Keep the list short. The end result of this little exercise is to show your children that it is entirely possible to accomplish your goals, so it’s best to keep the list short and sweet.

3.) Make one of the goals service oriented. Look at ways that you could serve together as a family. Is there a local food pantry you could help with once a month? Do you have a neighbor who needs help around the house? Could you bake cookies for one of your neighbors once a month and leave them anonymously at their doors?

Enjoy this time of brainstorming as you come up with something that you can do as a family unit to give back to your community.

4.) Make one of your family goals fun. Maybe there’s a water park in your town that you’ve never visited. Make a plan to save up for a summer day of fun in the sun. Or perhaps there are parks in your town you’ve never seen. Set aside days in your calendar to explore new places in your own back yard. Goal setting doesn’t have to be lofty or expensive. Keep it fresh and fun.

5.) Set individual goals. Take turns sharing with one another one thing that you hope to accomplish in the coming year. This is a chance for you to model for the children the importance of setting attainable goals, and reaching them.

Write down all your 2015 resolutions and hang them some place that the kids can see. As you accomplish your goals, mark them off the list with a big, black marker. Your kids will love the feeling of accomplishment as they accomplish these tasks, and mostly likely, so will you!

Do you have any goal setting habits as a family? How do you bring your children into the New Year’s Resolution tradition?

Life Lessons for Children: 42 Things I Want My Kids to Know

42 is a funny number.

It isn’t ‘turning 40′ and it’s not as though I’ve hit my ‘mid-40’s’, but somehow, I feel firmly entrenched in this decade. And that is glorious in so many ways. I’d love to tell you I’m not physically aging, that I don’t see that wrinkles, that my eyes aren’t less useful than they were a few short years ago, that I don’t envy the skin on younger, photo-shopped models, or that I don’t have more trouble sleeping. Alas, I do. All of it.

But I’ve traded it in for peace of mind. And happy. And maybe a little bit of wisdom….because I don’t want to go back.

What I want to do is be the best ME: friend, person, business owner and most of all, MOTHER I can possibly be.

Mom Delaney Cooper: 42 Things I want My Kids to Know: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Being a parent has been the biggest challenge I’ve faced and yet the one that has taught me the most. It has also helped me to focus on what I truly want my kids to know – beyond teaching my daughter how to put her hair in a ponytail, to love reading, to look you in the eye and teaching my son to empty the dishwasher and be a good listener, that it is ok to cry when he’s moved to do so and to easily express how he feels (you’re welcome future girlfriends) and, of course, sharing the magic of the ocean with both of them.

Each year on their birthdays, I write a letter to my daughter, Delaney and one to my son, Cooper….hoping to express how they’ve grown, how much I love them and what I dream for them.

But this….this is everything I want them to know.. At least I hope it is.

So, it is long, I know…but I’ve created a list of the 42 Things I Want My Kids to Know.  Take a deep breath and read on. (It’s actually a little bit shorter than my recent gratitude list!)

The most important life lessons I've learned: 42 Things I want My Kids to Know: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

1) Kindness is always the answer. Since you were small, I’ve asked you to consider one question when dealing with other people – your siblings, your dad and I, your friends, teachers and coaches. I believe this to hold true always. Kindness is a treasure far too frequently overlooked. It can make someone’s day. It can turn good moments in to great ones. It can carry you with grace through a tough situation. If I was only allowed to offer you one piece of advice, this would be it.

2) You can’t control how other people treat you, but you can control how you respond. There will always be both wonderful people and not-so-wonderful people in the world. Often times, mean small people grown up to be mean big people. When you come face to face with unkindness, ignorance or spite, you are in charge of your reaction. I challenge you to remember you cannot change THEM, but you can change you.

3) Respect – Give it to others and Expect it for yourself. Your heart, mind and body all deserve respect. Stand up for yourself and for what you believe in. Offer that same to others.

4) Do things that scare you. You know I love Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, ‘Do one thing every day that scares you’. Make your heart race. Try something new. Push yourself. Feel your fear. Let it motivate you to be better. The butterflies you feel as you do these things will only give you wings to fly.

5) The right decision isn’t always the popular one and the popular decision isn’t always the right one. I trust you. I trust your heart will lead you in the right direction and will let you know the difference between right and wrong. But know this – following your gut will take guts because sometimes you have to take the less traveled path, stand up when others are sitting or walk away from what feels comfortable. But you can do it.

6) Do what you say you are going to do. If you tell someone you are going to meet them, call them, finish a project or start a new one – do it. Standing by your word matters.

7) You cannot please everyone and it is not your job to try. Parents. Teachers. Coaches. Bosses. Friends. It will feel as though you are always surrounded by people who expect you to BE, to DO, to GO. And it will be impossible to please them all. Your job is to BE YOU, DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY AND HEALTHY and GO AFTER YOUR PASSIONS.

8) Play hard, Play often. You are already good at this. Don’t ever stop. You have taught me that play is to happy living what water is to the soul. I will be here to remind you as you grow to press pause and just play.

9) Be a cartwheeler. Learn to be as happy for the gifts and joy of others as you are for yourself. Celebrate your friends’ successes as though they are your own. Everyone needs to have a cartwheeler in their life. You can be it. Be genuinely happy for others – you will find this makes a happier you.

10) Work hard. Every time I drop you off at soccer practice during the Winter, I see the quote on the wall: “Hard Work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” It is true. You can be the most talented kid on the planet – at soccer, at softball, at playing the guitar or winning Spelling Bees….but if you don’t continue to work hard, you will be passed by those who prioritize hard work and effort over assuming their talent alone can carry them. (for the record...it appears this quote is originally attributed to a High School Basketball Coach named Tim Notke, but made popular by Kevin Durant in 2007 when he was named NCAA Player of the Year – Basketball)

11) Creativity and imagination are a beautiful thing. Nourish them. I don’t care which path you choose: Read. Write. Play an instrument. Draw a picture. Sing a song. Dance your heart out. But find a way to keep the garden of your creativity watered.

12) There is only one YOU. Be Her. Or Him. You are both so beautifully unique. One sensitive and bold. The other quiet and courageous. Both funny, heart-centered and loving. One tenacious and driven, the other unassuming but brilliant. I don’t want either of you to be anything BUT you. Not more like your sister, your brother, your friends or me….just extraordinary you.

Delaney Unique: 42 Things I want My Kids to Know: ExtraordinaryMommy.com
Cooper Unique: 42 Things I want My Kids to Know: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

13) Humility is a treasure. I am proud of you. Proud of all that you are, all that you work for and all that you accomplish. I’m your mother – I always will be. I want you to be proud of you, too…but humble. Let your hard work and your kind hearts do the talking for you.

14) Be a Giver: of your time, you energy and if you can – of your treasure. Give Good, Get Good. We’ve talked about it since you were small….. the more you can ‘give good’ in the world, the more you understand the value of ‘good’. You are blessed with enough. Share what you can.

15) Stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Use your words. Use your talents. It won’t always be easy, but do the right thing.

16) Life can be hard. You can do it. There will be bad days and very bad days mixed in with the good, the ok, and the extraordinary. You will fail tests, lose games and jobs, experience injuries, watch the ‘part’ go to someone else, suffer rejection and loss. I know you can do hard things. Allow the light from the good days to guide you through the tough days.

17) Every day offers the opportunity for a fresh start. As you fall to sleep at night, remember that each morning the sun rises…offering us a chance to start over, to try harder, to be better. Embrace each new beginning.

18) Be a student of life. There is something to learn from every person you meet. I have never stopped growing. Some of the best lessons of my life have come from the two of you. Seek to surround yourself with people who teach you and make you better.

19) Own your mistakes. You will make mistakes, errors in judgement – both big and small. Take responsibility for them, learn from them, and do better next time.

20) Value apologies. This means apologize when you have hurt someone and accept genuine apologies when they come your way. And then move on.

21) Magic happens every day. Watch for it: the sun rises, flowers bloom, Spring follows Winter, babies are born, a friend will call out of no where to tell you they are thinking about you – just when you needed to hear from her, and sometimes your mom even lets you get a pet hamster after refusing for years. See? Magic. Watch for it.

22) Say Yes. Say No. Learn the importance of each. Say yes to experiences, friendships, getting plenty of sleep and taking care of you. It is ok to say ‘yes’ even when you are a little bit frightened. Say ‘no’ to people who want to take advantage of you. Say ‘no’ when you realize you need to value your heart, your sanity and pride.

23) Aim high. I don’t expect you to win everything in life, to be the best or the champion. I do expect you to look up, to make plans, to set goals, to work hard and to reach as high as you can. If you fall a little short, that’s ok…pick yourself back up, measure the distance you’ve come, adjust your sails a bit, tweak your shot and get going again.

Delaney Basketball Action 2: 42 Things I want My Kids to Know: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

24) There is beauty in imperfection. Freckles. Glasses. Braces. Shaggy blond hair. A birthmark. These are just a few of the beautifully different, perfect things about you both right now. I recognize you as mine, and as entirely YOU, for all of the ways you are different from your friends. There is nothing more extraordinary than an individual who is unapologetic about what makes them different, who embraces their unique qualities. I want you both to be as perfectly comfortable with your own imperfections as you are at this moment – at eight and ten.

25) Make gratitude a priority. Putting gratitude at the front of your mind will allow you to maintain a positive attitude and THAT will guide you as you age. Recognizing the big and the small, the good, great, and brilliant give us perspective and help us to appreciate and often celebrate all that life throws our way.

26) Winning and losing are part of life. Allow both to teach you. I’m thrilled we have finally moved to the stages in your lives that have allowed you to experience something beyond ‘everyone gets a trophy’ as that isn’t how life works. While a ‘win’ can indicate perseverance, team work and incredible effort….a loss does NOT mean the lack of these traits. It can, however, teach you how to hold your head up, deepen your resolve, increase your efforts and try again. All of these lessons are important for life.

27) Pay attention to the world around you. It matters. I know it can be easy to feel insulated from the world when you have a roof over your head, clean water, enough food and parents who love you….but that is not the case everywhere and I want you to be aware of what is happening locally – in your home city and country and globally. Through your gifts, you may one day choose to make a difference for people who are far away or close by.

28) Choose your friends wisely and then be a good friend. Value honesty, loyalty and someone who cares about your joy and heartache. And then BE the friend that exhibits those same traits for another.

29) When being ‘social’ online, choose what you share wisely. It is ok for some of your life to remain just that: yours. And always refer to lesson number one: kindness is your number one priority. Do remember that what you choose to share online will stay there – both the good and otherwise.

30) Create a strong relationship with money. Understand the value of what you earn and the value of what you own. Save more. Spend less. I know it sounds simple, but it is exactly where you need to start. (This is a lesson I learned late and your dad gets all the credit.)

31) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Every time you make a mistake, I understand that you tried. It may not have worked, but hopefully you learned a lesson, can make an adjustment and avoid taking the same steps. Within every error is both courage (you took that step!) and a teaching moment (you can be better next time!)

32) Embrace the honesty in criticism, allow it to make you better….ignore the rest. Being criticized can be painful. Whether we are learning to master a sport, an instrument, a new job, public speaking or the craft of writing…you are invested in yourself and your effort so the critique can feel personal. Learn to seek the honesty within the critic’s words and use those to improve. Any critique offered either by a perfect stranger or someone who does not have the goal of making you better can be ignored.

33) Rely on each other. In this case, I’m talking specifically to the two of you – Delaney – rely on Cooper and Cooper – rely on Delaney. From the time you were born, 23 months apart, it has been my goal to nurture a relationship between the two of you. And so far, it has worked. Yes, you fight as any brother-sister-duo do, but you play together, protect each other, and share each other’s joy. Continue to be that light for one another.

CoopDelaneybirthdaycard.jpg

34) Be a master of observation. You can learn a lot about someone by watching how they treat others.  Someone who is kind to you, but rude to your waitress, is not a kind individual. Someone who is kind to you, but barks incessantly at the flight attendant, hotel staff, bartender, dog groomer, mechanic, doctor, nurse or receptionist…..they are not kind. Remember – your smile and respectful words can go a long way.

35) You are stronger than you think. The days when you don’t want to get out of bed…..when your muscles are too tired from the weekend’s games – but yet, your team needs you….you are strong enough. The day you fail that test and don’t want to face your teacher – you are strong enough. The day your heart feels like it is breaking, you are strong enough to put it back together. You are stronger than you think.

36) Laugh every day. You are both so good at this already…I will confess this is one I have learned from you and your father. Laughter is good for the heart. It is good for the soul. Find a way to laugh every day. Watch a video, call a friend, refer to your favorite quote….but laugh.

37) Take care of your body and soul. You only get one. I get it: you love chocolate and candy. And popcorn. And french fries. But continue to love so many of the fruits and vegetables and proteins that nourish your body. And keep being active. (as if you might EVER slow down). Love that soul of yours too – take time for quiet, do the things that make you happy and surround yourself by good people.

38) Do not compare yourself to other people. I’ll admit, it is a challenge – especially in our over-saturated online/social media world – to avoid comparing yourself to other people…. the house they live in, the food they eat, the vacations they take, their personal and professional success, BUT…and this is a big but…. your job is to be the very best YOU and the glimpses you see of others are just that: glimpses. You cannot compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Another of my favorite quotes (I’m back to the Roosevelt’s again) belongs to Teddy Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Sweet ones, it is true. You job is to compare yesterday’s ‘you’ to today’s ‘you…. that is how you improve.

39) Take the extra step. I know you won’t always be able to do this, but when you can…hold the door open for an extra 30 seconds, offer your umbrella to someone who needs it, help the mother traveling alone with kids, call your friend on his birthday instead of posting to Facebook. The little things, the extra steps….they can make all the difference.

40) Follow your dreams. Not the dreams I have for you. Not the dreams your father has for you. Not what your teachers, your grandparents, your friends or your coaches dream – but what you dream. When you were locked safely in my belly, I had dreams for you both. I imagined you as toddlers, as middle schoolers, as athletes and performers, as students, as teens and yes, as adults. But all of that has been replaced by one thing: my wish that you follow your own path – not one that anyone else lays out for you. We are your supporting cast – and happy to be so.

41) I may not have all the answers, but I will always be here for you. I know, I know. It is hard to imagine (at the tender ages of eight and ten) that there is a question I can’t answer or a problem I cannot solve. Remarkably, there will come a day when you will know this to be true. But if you wish, we shall muddle through it all together as you can always count on me to be a good listener, a sounding board, your staunchest defender, and the shoulder/hugger/cuddler/hand holder you need. I promise.

42) You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. No matter what life path you choose, no matter where you live, no matter your job, who you love or the dreams you follow…. you will always be loved by me and by so many others (your Daddy tops that list). Always.

It is a hearty list, I know. But being ‘in my 40’s’ has made me thoughtful. And hopefully wiser. I’m prioritizing. And these two small people….well, being their mother is at the very top of my list.

I know that I am simply entering my ‘second act’ and in so many ways, I love it. I especially love that I have embraced the fact that I will always be growing and changing and always be learning – especially from Delaney and Cooper.

Sweet small people – If you read this list and can only remember two of the forty-two….make it these: Make kindness your priority and remember that you are loved.

You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.

 

Focus on Gratitude: 42 Things That Make Me Grateful

42.

In many ways, an insignificant number. For some, it is the answer to life, the universe and everything.

If you are a baseball fan, well…you KNOW. You won’t ever wear the number on your jersey, at least not if you make it to the Big Leagues, but you respect the man who did, Jackie Robinson.

Me? Well….for me…the number marks 15,330 days of living. It marks the start of my personal New Year. It means I am another year wiser and am given yet one more opportunity to be grateful for where I’ve been and where I’m going.

And, as this 42nd birthday week begins, you now know why my husband is calling me Jackie.

Certainly turning 40 felt monumental in many ways, though I didn’t feel ‘older’. I was surrounded by many of the people I love most in the world and like those of you who have made this step, I heard the phrases ‘over the hill’, ‘the big 40′ and ’40 and fabulous’ over and over again. But I didn’t feel different. Every time I told someone I was 40, it felt foreign. The days, the months, the years were continuing to pass, and I have the wrinkles to prove it, but my soul didn’t feel 40. 40 was for people older than me, right?

Even now, being IN my 40’s feels a touch odd, but I finally realize I wouldn’t change it. The evolution, the coming of age, the beauty in BEING that is finally arriving is good. So, this week, I’m embracing lists of 42 – a number I believe has magic – that resonate with me and I hope they will with you as well.

Focus on Gratitude: 42 Things that Make Me Grateful

To start – 42 things, both big and small – that make me grateful. Tomorrow, 42 Things I Want My Small People To Know.

  1. Wisdom of Age – I’m grateful that I can have the wisdom to see the difference in my yesterdays, believe I am enough for today and have hope and faith for my tomorrows.
  2.  Sunshine – it fuels me all year long. It makes the cold of Winter bearable and the days of Summer glorious.
  3.  My Children’s Laughter – it just might be the very best sound in the world. When they giggled when they were little, it was heaven-sent. Now…as it isn’t something I can trigger as easily, I’m that much more grateful for it.
  4.  Watching My Kids Play Sports – I LOVE to watch them play because THEY experience so much joy. I’m grateful I can be witness to them growing, learning life lessons and having fun.Delaney Basketball ActionCooper Baseball Swing
  5. The Gift of my Husband’s Love as a Father – I don’t know that I have ever seen a man love his children more or truly make them the priority he does. He doesn’t coach them, play with them or spend time with them because he SHOULD but because he truly wants to do so. If given the option to vacation to Disney with them or do ANYTHING else – guess where he’d be? This man won’t ever look back having missed a moment. That is a treasure for which I am grateful.JeffKids
  6. Smiling people – When you smile at me, my day instantly improves. I’m grateful for the people who make the effort and for those for whom it simply comes naturally. Thank you. When I smile at you, I’m hopeful that I’m making your day just a little bit better.
  7. The Color Red – it has always been the color that makes me feel stronger, happier, more powerful. My husband will tell you it means I’m grateful for the St. Louis Cardinals, but honestly… my gratitude for the sprinkling of red in my life pre-dates him.
  8. Sleep – For years, I didn’t get enough, but now I make it a priority and it is amazing what a difference it can make in how I feel.
  9. Books and the Ability to Read - I have always loved to read. And I have always been grateful for a good book, but the older (and wiser) I am, the more I treasure both the time I have and each book I choose. I’ve set a personal goal of 52 books for this year. I’m currently reading my 3rd and 4th.
  10. My Health – I have fibromyalgia. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that every day something hurts…that is the nature of the condition, but it has taught me patience, pain management and to be grateful for the many good lower-pain days. I recognize that overall, my health is just fine.
  11. My Friendships – I couldn’t begin to list the people I love or the many ways they have supported me with words and with their hearts over the years. I have friendships that are 30 years old and some that are brand new. I’m grateful for the many seasons that each goes through – as they have helped to make me who I am now at 42.
  12. Holiday Cards – I realize the holidays are over, but I love sending and receiving holiday cards. I grateful for the opportunity to see how our friends and family change year to year….and I adore receiving mail. I’m also grateful to my family for allowing me the small joy of opening each card. I keep everyone of them each year.Holiday Cards 2014
  13. Peppermint Bark – my sweet, sweet once-a-year indulgence. I swear I try to stockpile it because I’m so grateful SOMEONE created this pile of deliciousness. Alas, my family loves it too.
  14. The Academy Awards & Golden Globes – these two programs and others like them (the Emmy’s, the Country Music Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards, the People’s Choice Awards, etc) remind me to dream…they remind me that I’m not too old I must stop dreaming. I will always be the girl who knows she could handle the Red Carpet. I would interview each and every celebrity who came my way, do it well, and have the time of my life.
  15. The Ocean – the one place on the planet that I feel most centered. I’m grateful for the sound of the waves – it soothes me. I’m grateful for the sand between my toes. I’m grateful for the salt in the air. I’m grateful for the way it makes me feel so big and so small at the same time.Danielle ocean
  16. Tulips – While they aren’t my favorite flower, they are lovely and I’m grateful for what they signify in the Midwest….the beginning of Spring. The moment they start to bud, I feel a level of hopefulness…I know that the brutal cold of Winter is finally beginning to fade. And that is tremendous. I’m counting the days.Tulips in the Midwest
  17. Sea Glass – this falls in to the ‘small category’, but I’m grateful for the ocean’s ability to take trash and turn it in to a treasure. Sea Glass comes in the most lovely shades of blues and greens and reminds me of vacation….so I try to keep some in my office.
  18. Hot Tea – I’ve taken to making hot tea in the afternoons and end of my day. I’m grateful for the ritual it affords and its ability to make me feel both calm and motivated.
  19. Our New Hamster – why would the girl who dislikes rodents be grateful for the small girl’s newest pet? Because this little guy represents Delaney not only tackling her fears of speaking in public to compete in the All School Spelling Bee, but winning.Delaney Hamster
  20. Yoga – I have never been a lover of exercise. Anyone who knows me can attest to that. However, I’m grateful for a form of exercise that allows me to feel stronger in both body and mind. And…I’m grateful that I can do an abridged version and still feel as though I’m doing SOMETHING good for me.
  21. Water – Ok…so, at the very base level, I’m grateful to have clean water unlike so many other countries in the world. It is so easy to forget that water is such an incredible luxury. And it is one that I have, for years, neglected to take advantage of. I’m grateful that I can see the difference a hydrated being can have.
  22. Movies – I have always been a movie lover, but when my small people were little, my time to watch felt so limited. So, I gave up trying. I’ve recently committed to going again – because I’ve always loved the escape and storytelling and I know I deserve to do something I love. I’m three movies deep in 2015 and just getting started.
  23. Vacations – I have always loved having something to look forward to….and in the heart of Winter, I’m especially grateful to know that there is both beach and family time in my future.Delaney Mom Vacation Drink
  24. Video – Every day, my small people ask for the ‘video of the day’ and I share something that makes them laugh (the Worst Beatboxer Ever), beg for a new pet (puppies vs. stairs), keeps them singing one of their favorites (Navy Baseball Players Sing Frozen) or reminds them that some of their favorite celebrities are, in fact, good people too (Sugar by Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift’s ‘Swiftmas’). I’m grateful that a medium I love to use to communicate is one that is so widely enjoyed and appreciated.
  25. My Online Community – I’m grateful for the depth and breadth of friendships I have as a result of the online space. I’m grateful for how much I have grown and continue to grow as a result of the people I have met – how they have made me better and stronger, how many of them have pushed me to be a better version of me, how they have challenged me to seek an inner entrepreneur, to learn things about myself I didn’t know and to have a desire to continue to evolve. There is a support network here, a collection of cheerleaders, people who will pick me up when I fall and remind me that I can keep going.
  26. California – Though I wasn’t born in this state, I will always be grateful for how I was shaped there and how it will always feel like home.
  27. Facebook – Sure, Facebook has its quirks. Sure, the amazing can sometimes feel as though it is being drowned out by crazy, by the rush to report bad ‘news’ and by the many, many games…but there is so much good to be seen. I’m grateful for the glimpses into the lives of the people I adore – many I’ve known since I was a little girl. I’m grateful I can watch my friend’s children grow from babies to toddlers, from toddlers to middle schoolers, from middle schoolers to teens. I’m grateful I can celebrate the first words, the first steps, the Back Tucks, the Soccer Goals, the Spelling Bee Wins, the art, the music and the acceptances to college. And I’m also grateful Facebook lets me know when I need to send love or pick up the phone.
  28. Good News – I’m grateful so many of you not only tolerate, but celebrate the moments I ask for Good News. I don’t know if you truly know why I ask – but there are three reasons: 1) I know many people hesitate to ‘brag’ about the good that has happened to them, so I want to give you that forum – I’m hopeful that if I ask….you’ll put it out there – whether it’s a promotion, your business growing, an opportunity to be on The Today Show, a winning lottery ticket or trip, a book deal, your child speaking for the first time, your sister having a baby, your birthday or your child going to college – share that GOOD. 2) I think it is important to focus on the big GOOD and the small GOOD. I hope, if you see me ask, if prompts you to think of the good in your world – and to find something, anything – even if it means putting your attention towards the hug you received that morning, the sun shining, or simply knowing there are only 45 more days of Winter, and finally 3) Because often, I NEED it. Hearing your good news helps me to focus on what is good and beautiful in the world. The time I take to read and respond to your comments puts me in the very best mindset – which is exactly where I need to be. (so thank you!)Facebook Good News
  29. My Tattoo – I had been thinking about getting a tattoo for quite some time. This past Fall, I did it and I’m grateful, not only that I did it, but that I chose something that makes me happy. (good news, right? Since it is permanent?) The butterfly represents my commitment to constant evolution and growth within myself, the fleur de lis represents strength and ‘enough’ reminds me that ‘I am’ and ‘I have’. Nearly 42 years and I now believe that I am enough (as a mother, friend, daughter, wife, business owner, individual) and I have enough – right where I am.Tattoo 2014
  30. My Mac – Sounds silly to be grateful for my computer, I know…but I am. My husband always refers to it as my third child. I AM grateful for the connection, the business opportunities, the ability to work, the collection of memories that all exist within this machine. And I’m grateful for how much I have learned about technology by using it.
  31. Time Alone – Yes, I’m a social creature….very much so. But I am truly grateful for the time I spend alone. I am grateful for silence, for time with my thoughts and the ability to be at peace. I need this time to refresh and improve.
  32. The Caribbean – I’m addicted to the Caribbean. I’m grateful for the iridescent sand, the warmth of the sun, the welcoming nature of the people who live on the islands, the way it feels like home. I’m especially grateful for the island of St. Thomas as I spent some time there this summer and I am better for it.Turks and CaicosSt. Thomas View
  33. Flip Flops – I have been staring longingly at the flip flops in my closet, knowing it will still be a bit before they are once again a permanent fixture, however, I am grateful for the ease, peace, sunshine and warmth they represent.
  34. Hugs and Holding Hands – These past two months have been among the hardest I’ve experienced. Unsolicited hugs from my children as well as the moments they have reached for my hands…these have saved me. It has happened in the kitchen, on the couch, walking from the car to the store or simply while I am standing, lost, in my own home. This connection, this touch, has been so filled with love – my gratitude is boundless. I’ve always been a hugger, but this is something special.Hugs
  35. Blacklist and Scandal – It is funny….even a short year ago, I considered watching TV a lazy activity as to do so would have meant I was NOT working or completing some other task I knew needed doing. Now? I’m grateful for the escape TV provides. Jeff and I have been taking the time to watch these two shows together and it has been fun to laugh, to debate, to be left cliff-hanging together.
  36. Wine – I love wine. I’m grateful for the peace at the end of the day that the act of pouring a glass of wine represents. I’m grateful for the celebration that wine among girlfriends represents. And some day, I hope to learn even more about the creation process.Wine Fleur de Lis
  37. My Recently Purged Closet – Chalk this up under ‘everything happens for a reason’. I was supposed to fly out of town for a job….one I was excited about doing, one I was hoping would put me back in the right mindset as I’ve been a bit off lately. It was cancelled at the very last minute. So, instead of putting my already-packed clothes away, I stayed up half the night and completed an ‘organizational’ task I’d long been putting off. I’m grateful my now immaculate closet reminds me that I wasn’t supposed to leave home that day, but was instead supposed to embrace that moment.
  38. Having a Job that Allows me to Work Around My Kids – I love my job. I love that I make my own schedule. I love, love, love that I have the opportunity to work around what is important to me and my children. I can work from 8pm to 1am so that I can attend the All School Spelling Bee. I can make a 4pm soccer game and an 8am Sunday game. That is a treasure. It is a gift. And for that, I am grateful every single day.
  39. Music – I have zero musical talent. Nada. Zip. Zilch. But I recognize that music has the ability to fit my mood, shifting to fit the small of a sad space, lifting to fill the glory of success, dancing to a much needed mid-afternoon break and soothing as I scrape together the final words of a last minute post. I’m grateful that music can fill even the talentless souls, fix broken days, and make happy hours complete.
  40. Sunsets – I know sunrises are glorious too, but I’ve always been partial to sunsets and lately I feel as though God has been painting them just for me -including the softness of joy and bruising of pain and yet reminding me through each day’s multi-colored ending that the day will dawn bright again tomorrow.Sunset Daytona Beach
  41. Photographs – I’m one of those people who includes photographs throughout their home. We do family pictures each year and I’m constantly capturing moments – vacations, sports, milestones. I’m so grateful to have them. These moments are memories grabbed. The years with my small people (and clearly my very own years) are shooting past and yet, each moment has the ability to give me pause, smile and allow me to wrap myself in gratitude.Delaney ToddlerCooper BabyWhat to wear in family photos2 Smith Family What to wear Family photos7 DelaneyCooper2014
  42. The People Who Live Under This Roof – It is so easy to go through the motions of day to day life without recognizing what is good and extraordinary right in front of you. It happens that you (and I) make lunches and dinners, shuttle from one sporting event, one guitar lesson, one airport to another and simply forget to be grateful for the squeeze of a hand, the opportunity to cheer on a child, to say prayers together, to witness one of your children encourage the other, to count freckles, to hear, ‘Mommy…I love you’ for absolutely no reason at all.  I have this….and at 42, I don’t want to miss it.What to wear family photos 9
Making this list has been the exercise in gratitude that I needed to begin my personal ‘New Year’. I know you and I don’t share the same list, but I hope it prompts you to focus on at least a few things in  your world that make you feel grateful. One of my goals for this year is to say ‘thank you’ more often.
Thank you for being here. I’m grateful for you, too.
What makes your gratitude list?

The Best Healthy and Quick Lunch Ideas

Hi there it is Kasey from All Things Mamma back again. Getting healthy can mean so many things. Maybe you need to get moving more, eat better or create more time for yourself.  Whatever that is for you – get started. So, this week I wanted to share a few ideas for creating a healthy lunch that doesn’t involve eating the crust you’ve cut off your little one’s PB&J or standing at the counter eating their leftovers.

Creating a healthy & quick lunch!

A healthy and fueled mamma is a happy one!  Golden rule: If mamma’s happy – everybody is. Take a few minutes each week while you’re making out your meal plan for your family to layout a few healthy lunches for yourself. If you don’t meal plan, maybe this is a first step to taking that step. I have several posts over on All Things Mamma on what work for us and some free printables. Check those out if you need some help.

Here are a few of my favorite quick and healthy meals that you can easily pull together. Each allow you to actually sit down with your kids while they have their lunch each day.

Healthy Salad

Salad:  Salads are one of my go-to lunches. I’m not talking about a cut up head of iceberg. These are good, organic greens topped with protein, nuts, veggies and a yummy salad dressing. Make your salad a meal. One of my favorites pairs mixed spinach and spring lettuces, topped with chicken, cranberries, feta cheese, whatever veggies I have on hand with poppy seed dressing.  It’s so good!  A big salad is filling and good for you. Just don’t over do it on the dressing as that adds too much in the way of fat and calories. Occasionally I will just have a little olive oil and vinegar.

pita pocket

Pita pocket:   I love a delicious, whole wheat pita pocket, toasted and filled with good stuff. You can add anything you normally put on a sandwich in a pita without all the carbs and heaviness of bread.  My favorite is this yummy recipe of cottage cheese, pineapples, lettuce, cheese and blue cheese dressing.  Sounds odd. But, it’s so good.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Soup and Sandwich:  There are a lot of soup recipes that can easily be put together in the morning in the crock pot and be ready to enjoy by lunch.  Add half a sandwich to your soup and you have a filling adult meal. BONUS:  leftovers for dinner or the next day.

Snack plate

Snack plate:  One of my favorite lunches is a little plate of my favorite healthy foods.  I will put together a little plate of Triscuits, cheddar cheese, cucumbers, avocados, berries or grapes.  I’ll add a big glass of water with a cucumber slice – it’s such a refreshing treat.  If you need to up your protein for the day – make a simple egg salad to enjoy with your Triscuits. 1-2 hard boiled eggs, cut up. 2 Tablespoons of mayo. 1 Tablespoon of pickle relish. Salt and pepper to taste. A dash of dried dill.  Mix all together and chill for 30 minutes if you have time.  If not, eat right away.

A healthy lunch doesn’t have to be hard, include ingredients you can’t pronounce OR find at your local supermarket.  Try for one week to make yourself a healthy lunch each day.  See if it makes a difference in how you feel – energy wise and emotionally.  Check out some of these recipes and more on All Things Mamma where I share all my favorites!

Tips for the Perfect At-Home Manicure

I’ve always been one of those women who loves having perfectly polished nails. There is something about it that makes you feel a bit more glamorous, don’t you think? But with busy lives, jobs, and families, making it to the nail salon for a weekly mani is just not a reality. I’ve tried countless products and techniques promising that salon-perfect look, but I’ve only come across a few that actually come through.

Good news….I’m happy to share those very best products (and tips) with you – so you can achieve the perfect at home manicure.

perfect manicure at home

1. Always remove the oil from your nails before polishing.

Even if you currently are rocking bare nails, this is a crucial step to prep your nail for polish. I regularly use OPI’s BondAid and LOVE it. It only takes moments to apply since you just swipe it on – no need for precision! For a quick fix, acetone nail polish will also clean your nails before polishing.

2. Base coat.

I used to skip this step just for time’s sake, but then my polishe would be chipped by the end of the day. Take the extra five minutes to apply and let it dry. Your mani will last so much longer. My favorite is Orly Bonder Base Coat. Once applied, it creates a rubber-like layer to your nail!

3. Double up those coats with a quality polish.

Again, this is another step that I would skip when short on time. But, I was always left disappointed when my manicure was chipped within 24 hours. When it comes to polish, I’ve found that quality does count too. Lately, I’ve been loving Julep polishes, but I’m also fond of OPI, Essie, and have heard great things about Sally Hansen’s Gel Polish.

4. Top Coat. And repeat!

Seal up your mani with a great top coat, focusing on your tips. I always apply from nail bed to the tip and add an extra horizontal swipes across the tips to prevent chipping. If you really want the color to last, be sure to repeat your top coat every other day.

It may sound like a lengthy process, but once you get into the swing of it, you’ll be enjoying chip-free manis on the cheap!

What are your favorite at-home tips?

Easy Organization: Three Simple Ways to Get It Together in 2015!

easy-organization

2015. This is our year.

It is the year we finally figure out how to keep a household, a family, a job and our dreams organized,  beautiful and running like well-oiled machines.

Really.

This gorgeous year is stretching before us all freshly-pressed and clean, free of mistakes and frustrations, full of possibility.

To make our goals of glorious synchronicity happen, all we have to do is make a few easy changes each month. Here are three easy projects or changes we can implement in month of January that will make a huge difference all year long!

keep-an-agenda

Keep an agenda and use it daily

Maintaining an old-fashioned paper agenda has overhauled my family, personal and work scheduling.

We have commitments coming at all members of our family from eighty zillion different directions. Flyers from the school, notes from teachers, messages from teachers in the children’s school planners, e-mails from activity leaders, Evites, Paperless Posts, Sign Up Geniuses, PTA bulletins…you feel me, I know.

Additionally as a freelance worker I have deadlines, conference calls, and meetings I must cross-reference with my mom duties and kids’ activities. Therefore, writing absolutely everything all in one place is saving my sanity and saving my schedule.

A paper agenda never needs to be recharged or fails to sync. It does not care that I am constantly switching from Apple to PC products, back and forth between Google and Outlook calendars. I have learned through mess ups and overwrought scheduling that a hard copy master calendar for the family and myself is a major necessity.

I use a momAgenda Desktop [disclosure: I am a compensated member of the momAgenda Council of Media Moms, however, I was a purchaser of this product for years before joining the council] because I like the daily areas for me and other members of my family and the week at a glance format. However, any paper agenda that you have handy will work better than no master agenda at all!

Keep your agenda with your computer and write down absolutely everything in it. You will also cut down on the paper piles because once the details from a flyer or invitation or have been transferred to your agenda, off into the recycling bin they go.

create-a-command-center

Create a command center

Professional organizer Rachel Strisik Rosenthal of Rachel and Company recommends creating a family command center for easy access and simplifying of the kid chaos. In her command zone she designates three main areas:

  1. Drop zone for backpacks, shoes and coats so items can be easily found in the morning. After homework is completed kids should pack it up in the backpack and place in the drop zone.
  2. Homework bins containing all the necessary supplies for completing work for school.
  3. Family calendar on the wall that details family commitments and activities.

Designate an area in your house that is already functioning as a catch-all for the kids’ stuff — the corner of the kitchen, the entry way, the mudroom off of the garage. Most likely this area’s organization and new “command center” status will be an easy transition.

do-a-dresser-detox

Do a dresser drawer detox

Rather than take on decluttering house-wide, why not start with one manageable area: your dresser drawers?

Grab a laundry basket and a few of cardboard boxes and tackle your dresser with a very critical eye. Your laundry basket is your “keep” bin, and then label your cardboard boxes “donate,” “recycle” and “trash.” Completely clear out every single drawer and be ruthless. Be especially brutal on whether to keep t-shirts (do they have stains? holes? were they freebies that you never wear?), undies and socks, which can be frugally replaced if necessary.

Repack your keepers carefully and even change up your drawer placement (e.g. if you kept gym clothes in the bottom drawer, switch them to the second one and put your pjs in the bottom) to get your brain accustomed to a fresh start. Any items crammed in the drawers that looked too wrinkled to wear but are keepers you should launder and then hang in the closet.

This one simple project will feel so good it may inspire you to go through your closet, or your kids’ dressers when you are done!

Happy 2015, and happy organizing! 

Easy Tips for Keeping Your Diet on Track

This time of year we are inundated with resolutions, with the need to make positive change. We are surrounded by people who SWEAR that this year will be different. They will get organized, read those books on their nightstand, exercise with gusto, take that vacation and yes, finally eat healthy.

Here’s the thing – you and I both know that exercising and eating healthy are not only two of the most popular resolutions, but they are two of the most commonly broken promises we make to ourselves. So, rather than set myself up for failure in 2015, I’ve shifted my logic entirely.

My priority isn’t only to me…it’s to these two small people. I not only want to be around for them, I want to model healthy behavior. I love being their mom and I definitely enjoy running my own business. This means I have an obligation to be an example of healthy eating for them.

DelaneyCooper2014

No, I’m not perfect. My exercise routine isn’t, well, as routine as it needs to be….so I rely on a certain set of tips to keep my diet where it needs to be. Today, I’m over on SheKnows talking about my best ‘expert’ tips to keep you and I on track – even if we are just getting started this year.

Pssst…. you will start by drinking plenty of water. Head over to SheKnows to read the rest.

Disclosure: I’m excited to be working with Fiber One and SheKnows for this post  – they inspired this conversation on how to stay on track in 2015.

 

Resolving to Make it a ‘Yes’ Year for Me

There is a reason little ones learn the word ‘no’ before they learn the word ‘yes’. When they are itty-bitty, we are constantly saying, ‘no, don’t touch that’, ‘no, don’t put that in your mouth’, ‘no, you can’t stay up until 10pm’, ‘no, you can’t have candy for dinner’ and on and on and on.

I can remember sitting on my couch surrounded by my small people and one day hitting my limit with the word ‘no’. I was sick and tired of telling them they couldn’t make a mess, couldn’t watch tv, couldn’t jump on the furniture, couldn’t play outside because it was too cold, couldn’t, couldn’t, couldn’t….

Yes-Day

So, I created the concept of a ‘Yes, Day’.  I promised them that I would say ‘Yes!’ to anything they asked (within reason of course – I still wasn’t going to let them play in traffic) for the entire day.

Yes, they could have cookies for breakfast and breakfast for dinner.

Yes, they could pull all the cushions from the couch and make a fort.

KidFort

Yes, they could play ball in the house.

Yes, they could watch a movie, and skip their naps and stay up past bedtime.

Yes, yes, yes, YES!

It felt good, great, AMAZING to see their little smiles, to feel their triumph, to know that I was satisfying their souls.

We made it a tradition….doing it once every couple of months from the time they were toddlers until they were in school full time and then it was cut back to every once in a while because…well…sports and school and life.

But here I am, back to sitting on my couch. It’s the beginning of 2015 and I realize that ‘yes’ and ‘no’ have played a vital role in the past year of my life. Not related to how I’ve treated my small people, rather how I’ve treated myself.

I’ve said ‘no’ when my body has asked for the sleep it needs.

I’ve said ‘no’ to carving out the time needed to get my body moving and my heart pumping.

I’ve said ‘no’ to eating the right foods at the right times when my body demanded it.

I’ve said ‘no’ to the activities I’ve always loved – reading, exploring, nurturing friendships, down time with my children

I’ve said ‘no’ to PLAY, to the activities that make me laugh, that make my heart sing, that allow me to relax, that make me BETTER – all in the name of BUSY.

I need a ‘Yes’ Day. A ‘Yes’ Month. A ‘Yes’ Year. I need to listen to my OWN inner little girl.

DanielleChildhoodSoccer

So, I’m taking it. I’m saying ‘yes’ and signing up for the yoga class I’ve been eyeing for months. I’m saying ‘yes’ and I’m going to learn to play the instrument (following in my daughter’s footsteps) that I’ve always wanted to play. I’m saying ‘yes’ and prioritizing the right foods at the right times. And ‘yes’ I’m going to get the sleep my body needs.

In 2015, I’m saying ‘yes’ to me. I’m saying ‘Yes’ to being the example my small people need to see.

DanielleKids2014

Disclosure: This post is part of a collaboration between Fiber One and SheKnows.