Lessons from the French on Feeding our Children

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

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

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

Family Meals

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

No choices

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

Variety

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

Schools back parents up

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

It’s expected

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

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

Fresh Food

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

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

The Art of Fighting Summer Boredom

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

And yet, somehow, Summer finally arrived.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting Summer Boredom - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

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

The Art of Fighting Summer Boredom: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

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

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

Fight Boredom This Summer: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

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

The Art of Fighting Summer Boredom: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

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

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

How to Look Your Best in Your Swimsuit

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

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

Treat 

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

Tan (Sunless) 

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

Toes

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

Tone

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

Tame

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

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

Shop

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

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

Strut 

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

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

Lessons Learned from a Stolen iPhone

Not only did I grow up without any type of a cell phone, I actually made it through college. When I look back, I’m not quite sure how. How did we find new restaurants, get automatic directions, meet up with friends on location, stay ‘connected’ to everyone? Oh…..that’s right, we actually talked to people, we used the phone book, took verbal advice and suggestions from friends, and otherwise winged it.

My first cell phone was one of those HUGE flip phones – with the big antenna? And the ONLY thing it did was make phone calls. (for which I paid dearly – per minute). This, mind you, was after I graduated from college.

I spent the first 22+ years of my life sans a phone, and yet, when my iPhone was stolen a week ago, it required incredible effort NOT to panic. It was as though I had lost a lifeline. I was out of the country and my phone disappeared the night before I had an 8am flight home. This meant my phone remained on an island, while I flew more than two-thousand miles home.

This left me unable to call my family to tell them I was safe or that I had landed at the airport. It meant I couldn’t take pictures on a whim. It meant I had no social media contact at all. However, I want to share with you, both good and bad, what I learned from this experience.

Our attachments to our phones/devices is irrational: I am being 100% honest when I tell you that during my flight home and the ensuing two days before I was re-phoned, I LONGED for my phone. My hands felt empty. I heard rings, beeps and notifications that had me reaching in to my bag, only to remember IT WASN’T FOR ME. I would like to tell you that the reason behind this mentality is that I NEED my iPhone – it is how I work, how I stay in touch, how my life is ‘easier’, but I (and you) CAN survive without these devices. Remarkable, but true.

We are an attached and detached society: I found myself staring sadly at anyone holding a phone…that is until I realized that at least 80% of the people around me were completely unaware of the PEOPLE around THEM. There was virtually no eye contact, no smiling…quite simply, we are attached to our phones and detached from the actual world around us. Yes, it is great to be able to text my family that I’ve landed, but that sense of ease shouldn’t replace the world around me. As I traveled home – phoneless – I talked to people. Novel, yes? I’ve always been someone who smiled at everyone I passed, but this freedom meant I was more open to conversation.

Find My iPhone App In Action: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Find My iPhone might be the most important app you ever have: As soon as I realized my phone was missing (I hoped it was mistakenly taken), I jumped on the Find My iPhone app and was able to see my phone’s location and that it was on. Additionally, you can send a ‘lost message’ alert to the phone (which locks it if you don’t already have that enabled), and if necessary you can remotely erase everything you have on your phone.  This is crucial as you don’t want all of your personal information in the wrong hands. When I prepared to leave the country, I could see that my phone had moved and then was turned off. I won’t pretend that I didn’t refresh the locater rabidly – like a 15 year old girl waiting for a boy to call – but it wasn’t until I was home – more than eight hours later that the phone was once again turned on and moved. When I called from my husband’s number (which incidentally reads in part: ‘husband’) my calls were ignored four times, then declined and then the phone was turned off. (The photo above shows where my phone had traveled at the end of that day – the green dot indicates the phone is ‘on’ – but not for long) This was the moment when I knew my phone was gone for good – so I did erase it remotely (thank goodness!) and moved on. The Android version of this app is Find My Phone. Get this app – iPhone or Android pronto if you don’t have it already.

Backing up your phone regularly is crucial: The good news is iCloud backs up my phone automatically – WHEN the phone is locked, plugged-in and connected to wi-fi. The bad news for me is that, being out of the country, I hadn’t connected to wi-fi in eight days. So, my back up was one week shy of current. However, it was 98% perfect – retrieving all apps, contacts, text messages and pictures. A good lesson in remembering to make sure your back-up is happening regularly.

I can survive. And do it well. My productivity for those few days increased beautifully as I wasn’t using my iPhone as a crutch throughout the day. Statistics say that we check our phones upwards of 110 TIMES A DAY. Certainly, some of those moments are ‘necessary’ – checking email remotely, responding to texts, engaging in social when it applies to your job, BUT 110 times a day? I’d venture that a good portion of those are purely habit and therefore? A waste of your (and my) precious time. It was a good lesson for me to put my phone down and walk away. Work, engage, talk, laugh and just BE without a device.

Let’s be honest – nothing about this process was ‘fun’, but I do think moments like this happen to teach me a lesson – or five. One other thing I learned from my carrier, AT&T? Once your phone is reported stolen, it is registered as such and is no longer eligible for service from any carrier based on FCC regulations. Small consolation – but at least SOME GOOD NEWS. Whoever decided to take my iPhone won’t be able to access my information (I wiped it remotely) AND it is useless for service.

Have you ever experienced something like this? If so, how did you handle it?

Fashion and Style: 4th of July Style Ideas

I don’t know about you, but the Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. Does it get much better than family, friends, and fireworks?! I’m sure you’re already making plans to hang by the pool or hit up the neighborhood block party, but have you planned your outfit? If you’re anything like me, then outfit planning comes in right after menu planning! But if you’re still looking for some Independence Day style inspiration, I’m here to help!

ANCHOREDindependence day nautical

There is just something patriotic about a good nautical print, don’t you think? If you’re going to a slightly dressier shindig, why not pair a fun anchor printed top with an a-line skirt and wedges? Love this look, but want a more casual vibe? Swap the skirt to your favorite pair of jeans shorts, and throw on some flip flops!

independence day style ideas

Anchor top / White skirt / Cork Wedges / Braided Belt / Love Knot Earrings

 

STARS AND STRIPES

stripes for fourth of july

Want to pay a little homage to Old Glory? Layer on the stars and stripes for a casual day cooking out or picnicking with the family!

independence day stars stripes outfit

Striped tee / Chambray top / White shorts / Striped TOMS (also in red!) / Baseball cap

 

RED, WHITE, & BLUE

nautical-preppy-fourth-of-july

Since I love a good theme, I couldn’t leave out the classic red, white and blue ensemble. You just can’t go wrong with a pair of red shorts and a striped tee!

fourth of july red white and blue outfit

 Striped tee / Red shorts / White sandals / Red hair tie

Seize the Day with Jockey Skimmies® – Embrace Comfort AND Style

Tracking Pixel
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Jockey

I was trailing about two feet behind her as we traipsed across the grass heading for yet another soccer game. It was hot, the type of heat that sits – thick and heavy, the sun blinding in its brilliance. And I loved everything about it. This is MY kind of weather. I live for the warmth of Spring and Summer.

And then I saw it – her wheels turning as she looked around and then shook her head in disbelief. My nine year old daughter burst out with her fashion assessment, “Who in the WORLD wears a skirt or a dress to A SOCCER GAME?”

I glanced down and slowly, I raised my hand, “Hey Punky, yoo-hoo…. that would be me.”

I have a habit of dressing for both comfort AND fashion. More often than not, you will find me in a skirt or a dress at all of my kid’s games – soccer, baseball, softball, basketball. I LIKE skirts and dresses. They make me feel fresh and happy. My small girl, on the other hand, prefers basketball shorts, high socks and tennis shoes.

As you can imagine, she was appropriately dismayed to realize her MOTHER was of the offending-skirt-dress-wearing-to-a-sporting-event type.

Do I run the risk of a wind gust blowing my dress up? Or my skirt sliding as I sit in the stands? Sure. But I have that covered.  How, you ask? Jockey’s Skimmies ®.

JockeysSkimmies under dresses

Here’s what I love about Skimmies®

They are designed for comfort – meaning, I am comfortable in whatever I wear – no worries about twirling, dancing or sitting in my role as a professional fan at my kids games.

JockeySkimmiesShorts

They are soft – they feel like a slip, but cover me as though I’m wearing shorts.

They can be worn to ‘skim’ over any problem areas and make pants, tighter dresses or skirts fit beautifully.

They come in different colors to easily match (or hide) underneath whatever you choose to wear.

JockeySkimmiesOptions

Have you tried them? You should.

For the next few weeks, on Jockey’s Fackebook page – they are challenging women like you and me to ‘Seize the day’.… knowing that we often have only one or two outfits we always grab (they are easy, comfortable-ish, but signal being stuck in a rut), knowing that we sometimes worry about how a dress, pants or skirt ‘fits’ us, and knowing that we often pick comfort over fashion – the idea is to step outside that comfort zone and wear what makes you feel FABULOUS.
Screenshot 2014-06-01 22.22.29

Since I DO worry about my dresses and skirts clinging AND I know that modesty is often a need, especially when playing and jumping with my kids – or, as I mentioned, heading to their games….this challenge above is the one I embraced. Note: my jump for joy without fear of exposing anything you don’t need to see.

JockeySkimmiesJumpforJoy

When you enter the Seize the Day daily challenge, you are entered to win $5000 towards the adventure of a lifetime, a style consultation with Rachel Zoe, or a $1000 shopping spree (among other amazing prizes).

Additionally, because I love you (and I’m loving these Jockey Skimmies®) I would love for you to have the chance to win a pair of your own. From now until June 9th, enter to win a pair of Jockey Skimmies®. From this giveaway 240 winners will be chosen. Comment below telling me what fashion or comfort challenge you believe the Skimmies® would solve for you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If only I could show you my daughter’s face when she realized that I was, in fact, well within my fashion and comfort rights to wear a dress to her games. Priceless.

Good luck entering the Seize the Day Challange and the giveway above.

Don’t forget to share your challenges with me!

Disclosure: This post is written in partnership with Jockey. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

A Letter to My Son on His Birthday: Eight is Enough

Ok Sweet Buddy…. Eight is Enough.

Anytime you want to stop growing and remain just as sweet, innocent and full of joy as you are right now, I’m game.

I’ve now known you for 2,922 days and I love you more each morning and each evening as I put you to sleep. I don’t have a perfect memory, but I remember vividly the moment you entered my world. The nurses told me you had a full head of blond hair – even before you were born. To this day, that beautiful blond hair, your smile and your heart make me fall a little more in love with you each hour. My labor with you was virtually non-existent. Dr. Cartwright made me laugh and you joined us immediately.

A letter to my son on his birthday: Eight is Enough

I literally laughed you in to the world. So fitting for a boy who makes my heart smile.

You are kind.

You are so very smart.

A letter to my son on his birthday: Eight is Enough

You are generous with your time and love.

You work hard and play hard.

Letter to my son on his birthday: Eight is Enough

You are funny, silly, goofy and lovable – all things that make you….well, YOU.

A letter to my son on his birthday: Eight is Enough

These are all traits I wish for you as you grow older. My goal has always been to raise a kind, generous, hard-working, play-loving boy….and to guide him to being the very same kind of young man and then adult.  You are making my job as your mother so easy.

I’ve noticed you growing up a little bit more lately…. just yesterday you dropped my hand when you saw a team of girls walking by….unwilling to be the ‘little boy’ holding his mom’s hand in front of girls. I knew it would happen eventually, but I felt it in my heart. And though you told me last night you will always be my ‘baby’, I can see the baby slipping away by the day, being replaced by a boy with a heart and mind of his own. I am raising you for these moments, but I confess to knowing I will miss the ‘little’ you.

This year you finished second grade, played more baseball, soccer and football games than I can count, celebrated your First Communion, made me laugh until I cried, held my hand and my heart, continued to snuggle in to my bed each morning,  learned the importance of loving  your sister, enjoyed the company of wonderful friends and reminded me that life is for living and loving.

A letter to my son on his birthday: Eight is Enough

As you enter your 9th year, these are my reminders for you:

There is no substitute for family. We’ve always stressed that our number one job is to take care of you and YOUR number one job is to love and protect your sister. The love you have for each other was reflected in the card she chose for you today: “For my brother: On your birthday, I’m thinking about the good talks we’ve had, the fun things we laugh about…the happy times we’ve spent together. On your birthday, I’m thinking about how good it is that you’re my brother…how great it is that you’re my friend.”  (She picked it out herself!) Your dad and I will always be here for you, will always support your dreams and will always be here to pick you up when you need us…. and your sissy will as well.

Work Hard, Play Hard – You do this beautifully now, but it won’t always be easy. As you get older, the temptation to play more than you work will be strong, but learning, expanding your mind and focusing on school, and improving both in school and on the field are important. The harder you work, the better you will be.

Losing is growing – I wish I could tell you that you will never fail, that a trophy will always be within your reach, but not only is that not true, I don’t want it to be. Every time you lose a baseball game, every time you miss that A+ you want, every time you fail to throw the ball over the plate, you have the chance to grow, to learn from your mistakes and IMPROVE. Learning this now means you will be better equipped for the moments in life that aren’t perfect.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Give it, earn it: it’s more than a word – Respect adults – teachers, coaches, other parents: they are here to teach you, guide you and help you to grow in to a strong adult. Respect your friends – their friendship is valuable…don’t take it for granted. Respect girls – you are quite a distance from dating (maybe 20 years or so :), but it is important to remember that girls deserve your friendship and respect just as the others in your life do. A strong man will always respect the women he knows and meets. Respect yourself: you are smart and valuable and more than capable of doing anything you want in life.

Nurture kindness -  You are a sensitive soul. You love deeply, you feel deeply, you hurt deeply. Assume that others do as well and treat them kindly. Share what you have, compliment- don’t criticize and offer to help whenever you can.

Take responsibility for your actions - If you do something wrong (and inevitably you will, as we all do), own your mistake. If you need to apologize for hurting someone, do it. Learn from your missteps, stand tall and do better next time.

Humble is beautiful -  I don’t care how many home runs you hit, strikes you throw, A’s you earn in the classroom – no one likes a braggart. Aim to be the very best version of you, but let your actions talk for you. Confidence is wonderful, but cockiness is unattractive.

Worry about yourself –  Remember that video I showed you of the little girl buckling herself in to her car seat? Think of her any time you are tempted to worry about someone else’s successes or failures. You job is to compare yourself to the ‘you’ of yesterday, not to worry about anyone else’s grades, athletic ability, relationships or home life. Cooper needs to worry about Cooper.

Make the world better each day - You make my world better simply by being wonderful, beautiful you. But, I challenge you to commit to small acts of good – open doors for strangers, smile at everyone, offer to help someone who needs it, surprise someone you love with a moment of good. You never know what someone else might be facing and your small act of kindness could make the difference between a good day and a tough one.

And one to grow on….

I have faith in you -  Always come back to this one. I will always be one step behind you, supporting your decisions and trusting in your goals and dreams. I have faith, Cooper, that you can be anyone or anything you choose.

Letter to my son on his birthday: Eight is Enough

You are extraordinary. My heart melts when I watch you do the things you love, when you hug your sister, say thank you to a stranger, call your dad your hero or tell me you haven’t had enough hugs for the day.

It is my honor to be your mom and to help shape you from this sweet boy in to the young man you are becoming.

I love you, my Buddy.

Love, Mommy

P.S. In case you needed a reminder of my 6 wishes for you when you were just a touch smaller…here you go.

 

 

 

 

My Best Beautiful: A Pledge To Switch to Olay Sensitive Body Wash

Have I told you this Winter was hard on me? No? Did you miss my yapping on Instagram? The snow, the ice, the BITTER COLD?

This California girl has never enjoyed the chilly months in the Midwest, but this year was particularly challenging. It was the very first time I ever experienced negative 20 degrees. That’s right. NEGATIVE 20. It wasn’t fun. I hope to never do it again. My body hopes it will never happen again.

And my poor sensitive skin hopes it will never happen again. I spent many, many days standing under the hottest showers possible simply trying to get warm.

The tough part about that is that the hot water can rob my skin of the moisture it needs…especially if I’m using a harsh body wash or soap that doesn’t add the extra love back in when I need it.

Olay Sensitive Body Wash Pledge

The good news is, with the coming of the warm weather…with the change of Spring and Summer, I’ve added a new skin care regimen that not only helps my sensitive skin, moisturizes my elbows, the backs of my arms and legs (and all the tough parts!), and beats the soaps I have used in the past.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a beach girl, a ‘water baby’….so I want to use a product that is as gentle on my skin as everyday water. Having sensitive skin means I need to watch for red patches to appear, for bumps to jump up on my arms, for any type of chemical in a soap or body wash to aggravate me, but Olay Sensitive Body Wash has taken all of the ‘harsh’ out of their product, leaving me with only goodness to use for cleaning and softening.

Olay Sensitive Body Wash Pledge

Much like moving in to my 41st year prompted me to pledge to take better care of my health, to be my very best beautiful, I’m now taking better care of my skin, pledging to include Olay Sensitive Body Wash in my skin care routine daily.

What do you pledge to change…about the way you take care of you? About your skin care routine? About your health? About being your most beautiful you?

Disclosure: I’m excited to be working with Olay Sensitive Body Wash and SheKnows to start this conversation – an important one (taking care of you!) – but as always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

5 Things we can Learn from the French

I know a lot of Americans don’t like to hear it, but… we’re not perfect. Our country is a great and wonderful one and I am proud to be American, but there are plenty of things we could use a little help on.

5 things Americans can learn from the French

If you would have told me this 7 years ago I would have said ‘sure, sure’ but not really taken it to heart. If you would have told me that some of those things we could learn from the French, I would have laughed. But alas, here I am 7 years later after living between the two countries (France and America) and I can definitely say there are some things to learn. On both sides, actually. But since this is in English, I’m assuming it’s mostly English speakers who are reading, so today I’m going to go through 5 things we could learn from the French.

Slow Down

eli-and-var

It seems like so many Americans are always in a hurry. To go to work, to come home from work, to see friends, to run errands, there’s always a reason. One thing I’ve noticed here is that it’s a slower pace of life in general. It’s okay to not be in a hurry. Of course this isn’t true for the whole of France and would probably exclude Paris. But for the most part, the French are chill and I like it.

Eat Well

I have a French friend that went to England for a class trip and when they offered her French fries and pizza, she was shocked. She was shocked that those would be put together and that there wouldn’t be any vegetables involved. For the French, vegetables are a huge part of their meals, and not just a spoonful of peas on the side. Today for lunch at a friends house, I ate Ratatouille, which is a bunch of vegetables in a stew. Everyone is expected to eat it, kids included. And I think we could use a little more incorporated into our lives. Not to mention these types of meals are the ones that the kids get for a hot lunch at school! Americans could really use a health burst!

Take a Vacation

1IMG_6163

In France the average person gets 5 weeks of vacation a year starting out. FIVE. In America, it’s two after you’ve worked a little bit for it. They know how to take time off of work. They know how to leave work at the office and enjoy life. I haven’t met a French person stressed because of work. I’m sure they exist, but for the most part people know how to relax. Don’t you think Americans could use a little bit of that?

Walk somewhere

be active

The French walk. They ride bikes. They don’t hit the gym, but they choose to walk home from work. This, combined with the healthy eating habits equals a pretty healthy country (minus the smoking). When there’s an opportunity to walk, the French take it. The other day I had lunch with a group of French friends at my friend’s house. After we ate (and we ate a lot) we went out and took a walk. No where in particular, just walked. It was actually really lovely. I know walking isn’t conducive in a lot of American cities, but it’s a good idea to think in that direction a little more.

Bigger is not necessarily better

One thing that I’ve noticed here in France is that there isn’t as much ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ as there is in America. People have small cars and small houses. People live simply but nicely. It’s rather pleasant to not have to have all the newest, biggest things. We can be okay with our small 3 bedroom house and be content with what we have.

Now, disclaimer: I don’t want to make it sound like France is super awesome and America isn’t. That is not my intent at all, because this post would be quite a bit longer if it were the other way around. I guess the overall point is that just because it’s done differently doesn’t make it bad. And just because it’s different from us doesn’t mean we can’t reevaluate our ways and see what’s good and what’s not and what’s working and what needs work. It’s a good exercise!

What do you think we could learn from other countries?

Buttermilk Banana Bread

Buttermilk Banana Bread

 

There are few things as inviting as the smell of warm bread fresh from the oven.  I am all about making memories and smells are definitely related to that.  I love when I can surprise my girls with the aroma of a warm sweet bread when they wake from their nap in the afternoon.  This Buttermilk Banana Bread is such a treat and since it makes 3 loaves, I like to put a different topping on each one. This is sure to become your new favorite quick bread recipe. [Read more...]