Tuesday, April 30, 2013

So What Does a School Board do Anyway?- Guest Post by Monique Limon

We are very excited to have Monique Limon as a guest blogger today. You have probably heard of a school board, and have even voted for school board members, but do you know what a school board really does? Today Monique gives us some great information on school boards and what they do for us and our kids.

During my time serving on the school board I am often asked, “what exactly do you do?”  Good question.

For many parents of public school students, school boards may appear to focus most of their energy on district-wide issues as opposed to what happens on a school site. This is true; school boards spend a significant amount of time focusing on district-wide concerns. However, don’t let that fool you, school board members care a lot about what happens in the classroom and on a school site because that helps us better understand how we think about district-wide policies.

School boards are responsible for reviewing, creating, and adopting district-wide policies in all areas related to schools: curriculum, budget, attendance, school safety, facilities, teacher training, etc. In a typical week we visit sites, meet with and respond to constituents, meet with the superintendent, present at community meetings, and of course, thoroughly review and prepare for school board meetings.  It is a big responsibility. According to EdData (http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/), there are nearly 1,000 elected school boards in the state of California, that serve over six million students at about 9,900 schools.

A fun fact, school board members don’t report to the superintendent. A superintendent of city schools applies for the position and is hired by the local school board. As such, a school board is only responsible for hiring (and on tough occasions letting go of) one position in the district, the superintendent. A superintendent reports to each member of a school board, which can make it a pretty challenging job. Imagine, having five to seven direct supervisors, which is the number of school board members on most school boards (they can range from five to nine depending on the district). There are some county superintendent positions that are elected positions and have a different reporting structure. At the end of the day, school board members keep a superintendent accountable and school board members are then accountable to the public.

The next time you vote, make sure you go through your ballot and vote for a school board member who you feel is ready to take on the charge and lead the district in the right direction. Remember- it is not easy work but very important work that shapes the quality of education for children.

- Monique Limon is the current President of the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education. She grew up in Santa Barbara, California. Monique graduated from Cal Berkeley in 2001. While attending Berkeley she joined Hermanas Unidas in 1997 and was the one who originated the infamous "H-a-U know" cheer. Her guilty pleasure on television is novelas! 

Monday, April 29, 2013

HerMamas Month of May Fitness Challenge

Up for a fitness challenge? Whether you're looking to become more active, lose weight or simply eat better, here at HerMamas.com we want to reach health and wellness goals TOGETHER! So join us as we embark on the HerMamas Month of May Fitness Challenge. 

Becoming part of the challenge is easy:

1. Visit Skinnyo.com and create a FREE account. 
2. Search HerMamas Month of May Fitness Challenge #3 
(if full, search #4 and so on)

Do note, only 16 people can join each challenge, but we've ADDED more teams (as needed).

or even simpler, click the following link to find an open challenge:

Challenge #1: FULL
Challenge #2: FULL
Here's the CHALLENGE gist:
  • Challenge starts Wednesday, May 1st!
  • Get Active: Workout consistently (4-5 times per week). Complete a minimum of 4 weekly (30 mins.) workouts (home, gym or outdoors). Log your daily workouts on Skinnyo.com by commenting on the CHALLENGE TIMELINE! Finally, check your progress on the LEADER BOARD! 
  • Get Healthy: eat more fruits and veggies while reducing fatty foods & sweets. Track your daily food intake to ensure you're eating better day-to-day.
Whatever your fitness goals, we hope you'll come on this 31 day journey with us. Let the month of May be the one where you focus on Health and Wellness! And enlist the encouragement of other HerMamas while doing so. Send us your feedback and ideas and get ready to kick some fitness booty on Wed. May 1st! 

Disclaimer: You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other diet/exercise program to determine if it is right for your needs.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Currently Obsessed

1. All The Times We Had by Ivan & Alyosha- After forming in 2007, this Seattle based band has released their first full length album. This album is super mellow and a great lazy day summer CD. The best way I can describe them is a mix of Radiohead and The Beatles. The first time I heard the whole album it made me want to jump in the car and take a road trip to Joshua Tree. I could picture the wind whipping through my hair zooming through the desert with this album playing at top volume.

2. Google Calendar- Now this current obsession has taken over my entire life, in a good way. I first began using the google calendar at my husband's urging to share work commitments. Before I knew it, I had a personal version for blog up keep and now an entire office full of staff using it too. My staff probably think I'm a bit nuts with my constant "put it on the calendar" rants. But keeping multiple calendars virtually available really helps this busy mom stay organized.

3. Carlos Santana Handbags- I love handbags. They really are a weakness. If you look in one of the closets in my house you will find it filled with handbags. But I haven't drooled over a bag like this one in a long time. I found this gorgeous mexican oil-cloth inspired bag and fell in love. When I looked at the label I was shocked to see it was Carlos by Carlos Santana. Yes that "Oye Como Va" Carlos Santana. This bag is gorgeous and I have not stopped talking about it for weeks. And at $89.00 is it not too outrageous in price.

4. Spotify- We love music. I have it playing almost constantly and have ipod players throughout my house. My favorite program for music is Spotify. A step up from Pandora, Spotify not only plays radio based on your favorite artist or type of music, but you can play almost any song from any album any time you want (on the desktop version). You can even make playlists of the songs you want. Follow along with what your Facebook friends are listening to, also! The mobile version does not give you the option to play personal DJ but it does play the artists and type of music radio just like Pandora does. And all this with the free account. If you sign up for their Premium account for $9.99 a month, everything you can do on the desktop site, you can do on the mobile site. It's like having every album ever in your personal collection.

5. Shrimp Tray from San Pedro Fish Market- The San Pedro fish market in sunny SoCal is definitely a bustling must-see. My favorite part has to be the easy access to delicious shrimp trays. There's also live music and shops for strolling. Once while visiting we saw a patron wearing a t-shirt that read: "San Pedro: where the ghetto meets the sea!" We don't mind a little ghetto when it's mixed with great friends and food. The shrimp tray is so good I tried making it at home. Sadly, I over-salted it. Which only means I need to head to San Pedro sooner than later for the REAL thing! It's delicious.

6. Gravity Falls- This cartoon on Disney Channel is just super cute and funny.  The first one I ever watched had me just cracking up. It was called "The Time Traveler's Pig." I couldn't believe how witty the lines were and so I began telling everyone about this cartoon as if it was a primetime comedy. When a new episode premieres my 6 yr old and I make sure to plan a date night to catch it on TV or we  watch episodes on the Disney Channel App. The best part of this cartoon has to be a character named Mabel (voiced by Kristen Schaal). She's a sweet little girl who is always positive, giddy and hilarious! Plus, she has the coolest collection of rainbow-unicorn-ice cream sweaters. Gravity Falls is a cartoon parents will enjoy with jokes meant for adults that aren't inappropriate for kids. A true win-win, so TUNE-IN!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Closet Full of Gifts!

It's Friday evening. Your crazy week has finally come to an end. The kids are in bed and as you get up to refill your wine glass you notice something on the calendar. Your kid has a classmate's birthday party. Tomorrow. At 11am! With everything else going on it has totally slipped your mind that "Hunter's" party is tomorrow and you have no gift.

I have to admit this has happened to me more times than I care to admit. Usually I have to leave even earlier for the party and stop at a store to buy a gift, card and usually a gift bag.

While listening to a podcast the other day I heard about this brilliant idea that would save me time and money.....


It is exactly what it sounds like. It is a closet full of gifts. You keep it stocked with random gifts for different genders, ages and occasions  Make sure you have some generic cards and gift bags too.

So what do you buy for your gift closet? Well you know how when you shop you sometimes find some really good clearance deals on things like board games, candles, puzzles, baby clothes, picture frames, etc?

Grown-Ups: Well don't pass up that $2.00 mandarin orange candle from Ross. Buy it and put it in your gift closet and the next time you need a quick co-worker gift you are ready! Check places after Christmas time when many gift-sets are clearanced.

New Baby:  Baby clothes are a great thing to buy too, when the winter clothes and blankets go on clearance in spring buy a few pieces. Someone you know will have a baby!

Young Kids: Sometimes classic board games like Memory and Chutes and Ladders will go on sale for $5.00. Buy a few of those and keep them in your closet for your kids classmates birthday. Another great $5.00 clearance item are DVDs. Keep some of those for the gift closet. Have a great Michael's coupon that is about to expire but don't need anything? Stock up on crayons, markers or play-doh to keep in your gift closet.

I really love this idea. 
Do you have any tips for stocking a gift closet?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Telling My Family I'm Getting a Divorce

Going through a divorce is never easy. But the hardest part for me was telling my family that my husband of 4 years and I were divorcing. My ex-husband and I were married for 4 years. We were young and naive and we really believed that we could make it work despite some major differences in our lifestyles.  It got to a point after about 2 years, where both my ex-husband and I were miserable and yet the idea of telling my family made me stay in a miserable marriage for another 2 years. Coming to that decision to get a divorce was easy, it was explaining it my family that was hard. 

I come from a very large tight-knit family, and despite the large number of married couples there had only been one divorce. I was one of the first of my generation to get married and I felt like I was setting a bad example. The first hurdle was the biggest, telling my parents. In our family we love big and fiercely. Once you become part of the family there is no difference in the love between born-in family and married-in family. Having to tell my parents was the hardest thing ever. I felt like such a failure at some thing that was suppose to be easy. It didn't go well. My parents were sad and upset. My mother even said "It's like there was a death in the family.

It took a while for them to get over the divorce. This transition period was hard for me to get through because I felt like I had messed up our family dynamic. Just because I had 2 years to get use to the idea of the divorce and moving on without my ex-husband, my family was new to the idea of life without their son-in-law, brother-in-law, and uncle. My ex may have been my husband but he was other things to other people in my family. They needed time to adjust. 

At the end of it all my happiness is the most important thing to my family. They didn't love me any less because my marriage failed. We were all able to move on and our family dynamic is better than ever.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How to Survive the NBA Playoffs

Okay, so maybe you're a big fan of basketball and you're not exactly putting up with NBA finals, but what if you've just about had it with basketball season? Maybe you're like me and it feels like NFL and NBA games take over weekends year-round. I'm actually lucky my hubby isn't ALSO a big baseball fan because then we'd really have way to much to keep up with.

Whether you're a fan or not, check out these tips to make the best of NBA playoffs (and sports fanatics in general, year-round):

1. Make it a hot date: don't just sit on the couch watching playoff games every couple of days. Catch the game at a restaurant/bar and have a fun date night. Great excuse to get out and have fun together taking part in something your other half is sure to enjoy.

2. Host playoff parties: Think delicious appetizers and themed drinks. Sticking to a simple two-drink menu/theme for the alcohol options keeps the drinks affordable (i.e serving Guinness for celtic fans).

3. Ditch the game for girl-time: Either have girlfriends over (during the game) and quarantine an area for the gals sans-sports for facials and cocktails or caravan elsewhere for manicures, magazines and chit chat. Guys get their game-time while gals get in some girl-time too.

4. Embrace it: My hubby once (conveniently) showed me a post from a friend's Facebook page. It was a photo of a small cooler with six-beers and a hat with this guy's favorite sports team all grouped together with a BIG bow and a card that simply read: "Enjoy football season! Love, Your wife!"

I personally thought no. 4 was a great idea. Embracing what your hubby loves will surely lead to him embracing more of what you love. Whatever you do to get through it, just remember the playoffs mean that basketball season is almost over! 

Are you embracing the NBA playoffs too or just about ready for this season to be OVER?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Play on (Bad) Words

I have noticed this trend in advertising lately. It seems like more and more ad campaigns are barely squeezing through television and radio censors. The first one I noticed was from "Fresh & Easy". This commercial plays every morning on the radio when I take my 8 year old to school.

Yes it is a clever play on words. F & Easy sounds a whole lot like F'ing Easy. Especially when my 8 year old is singing along.

The next one I saw was from Kmart and their new service where they will ship any product to you if it is not available in their store.

I have to admit this one is pretty funny.  I am still on the fence about this type of advertising. The adult in me thinks it funny and clever, but the Mom in me feels like I should be upset by it.

Is our society starting to loosen up about bad language used in 
everyday media that all people of all ages are exposed to? 

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think about these kind of ads? 
Inapproriate or just a fun play on words. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tips to finally land that JOB

Whether you're male or female, a mid-career professional or recent college grad, more and more people are talking about the ups and downs of landing a job in today's economy. Seems like it's taking longer than ever to land an interview, let alone get the call that you've been hired. Consider these simple steps and invigorate your job search today...

1. Don't underestimate the following: cover letters, thank you cards and follow up phone calls. I've had plenty of bosses and colleagues talk about how the real difference came from one or more of the aforementioned. A well-written coverletter is your first "voice" in this search so make it a great on. Sure you might think a well-written resume is the end all, but when countless people apply for the same job chances are only cover letters are skimmed while actual resumes go ignored. End the cover lettter with a strong concluding sentence. Basically, leave the reader wanting more. My previous cover letters ended with a line I stole from my husband: "You will be impressed!" Thank you notes and follow up calls should follow the interview and both should serve as a gesture of gratitude and a reminder that you're HIGHLY interested.

2. Networking Does Really Work so put yourself out there. Tell everyone you're searching. So many people talk about how they landed the ideal job because they knew someone who got their foot in the door. This is truer than ever with social media creating a large network at everyone's fingertips. Don't do this alone. As much as it might feel like a job search is something you alone put the time into behind a computer, searching ads, and sending resumes, that is really not enough anymore. So be willing to meet people and spread the word to your networks that you're searching and exactly what you're searching for. As a supervisor in charge of hiring and firing, I understand the value of finding great employees through word of mouth and already established relationships. In fact, I prefer it that way as opposed to a random applicant who found us through an online search or walk-in. So get into your network to land the right job.

3. Get Confident and Study Up. Might seem like this goes without saying, but say you've done all of the above to land the job interview and during the interview you fail miserably. A great way not to fail is to mentally prepare and rev up your self-confidence. Get amped about YOU and do not sell yourself short. Bring major enthusiasm to the interview (along with a sharp outfit to match the occasion). Enthusiasm and confidence go such a long way and though you might sound amazing on paper, you must also present well in person. After all, employers will work with your personality day-to-day and not the skills you've noted on paper. At times finding the self-confidence can feel like a challenge so study up on the company and possibly google search what you can about those who run it. This will bring you a level of understanding and hopefully boost your confidence before actually sitting in front of an interviewer.

And beyond everything else keep the faith! Jobs can be hard to land, but if you're relentless and methodical you're bound to land the best J.O.B for you. So happy hunting and GOOD LUCK!

What do you think helps when it comes to LANDING the ideal JOB??? 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Day Child Protective Services (CPS) Knocked at my Door

I don't typically spank my children. Something about it just never felt like it made sense. In the 7 years I've been a parent, I can count on one hand the number of spankings my kids have received. With that said, I never thought there'd be a reason for Child Protective Services to knock at my door to inspect the safety and wellbeing of my children.... 

It was a random weekday and both my husband and I happened to be home. Suddenly, there it was.... a knock, then a very nice young woman presents herself at my doorstep flashing a badge and explaining she scheduled this unannounced visit due to a report of neglect. My heart sank. I panicked. My husband and I were just about frozen. A myriad of things ran through my mind but I couldn't quite place the last time I had spanked one of my children. "Neglect? What does that mean? Who would report such a thing?" Is my house clean enough for this visit?" I mean the things I thought about were rampant and even a little weird. Turns out neglect had nothing to do with a spanking or an unclean house, we were being investigated due to medical neglect!

Now the back-story: about a week before this visit we were at a nearby lake during a long weekend. This site was a first for my family and as we settled in, I watched my children play. From a short distance my two oldest appeared to be walking along the sand. As I realize that they were walking towards a small round concrete hole in the ground used for bonfires, my mother-in-law simultaneously asks, "isn't that hot?" At that instant, I began yelling "nooooooo" and bolted towards my children. But it was too late. My daughter was just about diving into it with both feet. It was a freak accident. It was one of those moments everyone talks about..."it happened in a second." As I ran in the sand towards my daughter, those 10 seconds to get to her felt like hours and she was already burning her tiny feet. There was no actual fire but ashes (possibly from the day before) were just hot enough to do this...
My Daughter's Injury
My sweet princess cried and cried. We all jumped into action. My entire family began helping and I felt like I had failed her by allowing this to happen. My husband ran to the pharmacy and we treated her right then with ointments with the eventual plan to take her to the hospital. Growing up we avoided hospitals and so we didn't immediately rush her there. Turns out, that was our first mistake. My daughter was fine a few hours later and even better the next day. I treated her burn and had her in fuzzy slippers. I then penciled her in to see her doc. That visit was 48 hours after the incident... 48 hours turns out is too long and constituted medical neglect. Who knew? Well now, I do! And I understand why my daughter's doctor reported us to CPS. She has a job to do and for all she knows I was a deranged druggie who burned my kids feet with a crack-pipe. Hey, I didn't think it then, but after our little social worker visit, I get it now. Then again, just look at this gorgeous face... who would intentionally hurt this adorable angel?...

Well try telling that to a strange woman at your door who explained she'd need to interview you and your spouse who happens to be wearing this T-shirt...
Free T-Shirt... FAIL!
Yes, my hubby's t-shirt with the phrase: "I'm a HITTER" on display. Not funny at the time, hilarious now. Not only were we interviewed, but our children had to be interviewed. I love how the social worker asked my oldest son, "what happens when when you get in trouble?" His answer: we talk things through! Our two youngest children had to have their naked bodies inspected and a nurse had to follow up with an additional visit. My son's school was to be notified (but I refused that part... wasn't interested in letting others falsely assume we actually abused our kids). Rumors spread without details. The social worker even checked if we had food in our fridge and utilities turned on. It was all so foreign, but again if we were "terribly horrible parents" that intentionally burned our own kid, we'd probably also fail to pay our gas and water bill. 

This outrageous inspection all started to make sense and though we believe we're amazing parents, we were at this moment having to prove we were not intentionally neglectful. Relatives at the lake where my daughter was burned had to be interviewed and the whole family was suddenly dragged in to corroborate our stories. 

The social worker had a job to do and she did it well. The next day we chatted and I asked if I now had to rush to the doctor for every bump and bruise. She put me at ease and assured us we'd hear back from the department soon. There were three outcomes: the claim would be validated, inconclusive or unfounded. She believed inconclusive was to be expected, but in the end the claim was unfounded!  It felt like an eternity passed before we could be cleared from this scary situation, but unfounded turned out to be the findings. For the record this is how one would define unfoundedNot based on fact or sound evidence; groundless.

So this freak accident occurred.  It was terrifying. My daughter suffered, but we are not medically neglectful.  However, I will never forget the emotions that came over me the day CPS showed up unannounced. Our doctor did what she thought right, and if nothing came of it, these terrifying procedures are meant to actually protect children who are being abused and so these visits may actually save lives (when valid).

Our children are precious, precious beings that can be hurt in an instant by the world and all that is in it. However, it is not our place to hurt or neglect them. Now I even understand why spanking has never felt right to me. We are our children's protectors. In the end, I am happy my daughter wasn't severely injured. She has fully healed. No long-term damage or scars resulted and we ended up learning so much (i.e. inspect every new place you visit for potential hazards, never wait 48 hours to take your child to a doctor due to injury and never, ever, ever wear a t-shirt that states: I'm a HITTER, because you never know if CPS will knock on your door too).

Hard to admit this happened to us? People assume I write a mommy blog and I must be perfect! I'm positive never perfect and this was surely a learning experience for our family! Share your learning experiences in the comment section below!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Daycare Search (and the emotions that come along with it).

When the time came to place my almost three year old and 18 mos. old in daycare, I couldn't imagine leaving them with "strangers." Then I got to thinking about the countless mothers who leave their children at daycare as infants. At 12 weeks, most women return to work and daycare is the only option. I've been lucky enough to delay this process, but soon came to find that no matter the age of a child the decision to place them in daycare is a BIG one!

Here's what worked for us during the daycare search and all the emotions that came with it:

  • What's your budget/what's your schedule: first things first, decide whether you need full or part-time care and what you can realistically afford. Look at your personal finances beforehand to make sure you can afford a placement that is sustainable long-term and not detrimental to your finances.
  • Warm Leads: I couldn't bring myself to just search online. I imagine this has to work for some, but everyone has a personal network and my first thought is to go there first.  Naturally, I turned to mommies in the neighborhood. Ultimately a very close neighbor recommended a daycare care her son has attended for almost two years (he's been there since 3 mos. old) and that to me was a good sign.
  • Licensed vs. Unlicensed: most daycares are licensed, so make sure you're provided with the appropriate information to look the daycare up in the licensing database before the child's 1st day. Licensing in a nutshell means the facility has been cleared to serve children, meets certain statewide standards and all individuals caring for the children have had their backgrounds screened/cleared.
  • Visit: schedule a drop-in visit during actual operating hours. Before that visit make a list of your questions. It's important to ask every single thing that comes to mind. I even forgot a few key questions and ended up grilling my neighbor one too many times. Look around. Stay as long as you feel comfortable and watch how children interact with each other and their caregiver. Go with your gut and explain what works for your child(ren). With my children we discussed what they're like during the day, how they eat, sleep, etc. One key thing I wanted, was for my children to continue speaking Spanish all day as they did with their grandmother. So picking this home-daycare as opposed to a pre-school created this option. I loved watching the main caregiver speak only Spanish to the children even those that don't speak it at home. If this is not something you'd want, then you wouldn't pick this option, of course. But be sure to not settle and get what you really want.
  • Emotionally prepare: there's almost always tears either from the child(ren) and/or the parent(s). So you've gone with your gut. You've identified a place you feel good about after the warm leads and visits, but nothing can prepare you for the emotions of actually leaving your child there. A friend told me to warn my daughter and not just leave her and I'm grateful for that advice. Since my toddlers are older I knew they'd understand being left behind, especially my very vocal (almost 3 going on 13 year old) daughter. I explained I'd  be back at the end of the day. Internally, I felt sad to see her cautious & concerned face. It also didn't help to hear her repeat, "I go with you." Externally, I smiled and I assured her I'd return. I took my time that first day. I sat on the alphabet carpet and introduced my daughter to other girls her age hoping to make her more comfortable. My son was off and didn't seem to understand good-bye, but as my daughter understood she eventually said "good-bye mom." I closed the facility door and that's when my heart sank and the waterworks began. I know this is for the best. I know they'll be okay, but there's just something that leaves you feeling emotional. 
I'm a positive person. I've done the research. I watched the current children at daycare lovingly interact with the caregivers and I know that this day-to-day structure and the age-appropriate social interactions are all great for my children, but I suppose it wouldn't make sense to not feel even a little sad. Children grow up and it's these transitions that remind us just how quickly the growing up is. Moral of the story, take your time searching, go with your gut and ask plenty of questions! You and your child will find a place to fit into, and in time, daycare will be a part of everyone's regular ol' routine.

Did you cry the 1st day of daycare drop-off? How did you know you'd found the right place? Share your tips below and help other HerMamas get through the daycare search and the emotions that come along with it! 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Family Truly is Everything" - Guest Post by Joaquin Garcia

When big events happen that change our lives, many of us take time to reflect.
 Our guest contributor today is Joaquin Garcia.
 As he goes through both positive and negative life changing events,
 he has spent time reflecting on what family means to him. 
We are very happy he is sharing his words with HerMamas. 

In my 28 years of life I have endured and overcome a plethora of trials and tribulations. Some have been cause for celebration. Others have been devastating and overwhelming. But regardless of the good or the bad I have learned that every single obstacle I have conquered or overcome in life has not been accomplished alone. By that I mean the simple fact that I have always had my family and friends support and encouragement to inspire me to attain each and every goal I have set out for myself, as well as instilling the patience, courage and strength to overcome those hardships and struggles.

 I currently find myself battling the largest hardship bar none that I have ever faced. At times I've felt like throwing in the towel and giving up. But instead of taking the easy way out I remember why I'm fighting so hard to win this battle that I'm currently faced with. I'm fighting not only for myself, but for my family. My loving Fiancé, my daughter, my two sons, and my little angel on the way. I am reminded each and every time I look upon their faces that they look up to and depend on me for everything and it motivates me to keep pushing and fight even harder. I am now a father and understand my vital role in being not only a provider but also the role model that I have always dreamed of being for my family.

 I vow from this day forward to never let doubt or frustration deter me from giving my family the life and upbringing they so deserve. My very own upbringing raised me to believe with all of my heart that family truly is everything. From the second I was born they were my lifeline for every essential aspect of life. From nurturing/sparking my imagination, inspiring goals and dreams, instilling morals, values, religion, family traditions, work ethic, and ultimately providing the needed knowledge and moral compass necessary to become a respectful and mindful member of society. Granted, all of life's lessons could not be taught through just words alone, but through trial and error on my own account. It was at that exact moment that my own intellect, judgment, and moral compass determined my decisions and choices that ultimately revealed the harsh reality that I have known to call "Life". Those decisions have molded, established, and created the path that I am currently taking and the life that I am currently leading. 

But when I realized the difficulties of life it was almost instinctual to call upon that vital and necessary lifeline I call "Family & Friends". I believe wholeheartedly that it is through our family and friends selfless love and support that we realize and learn that they are our foundation, our rock that we can count on without question during hardships and strife. Now that I am engaged to be married and expecting my first little one, it fills my heart with joy to know that I will be able to share my lifeline with a family of my very own, to ensure that they receive that same upbringing and closeness that I have always known with my immediate and extended family.

I am a stronger man in spite of all of the hardships and struggles I have endured and I can honestly say that I am proud of the man I have become and still becoming. I feel I have already accomplished quite a bit in my life. But with that said, I am not satisfied. I have set out to become an amazing husband and father, to raise my family as best as I can, to ensure my family and I build a stronger relationship with God, to purchase a house for my family to call their home, and to ultimately live the American dream. Although the military and a structured upbringing have taught me to be independent and self-sufficient, regardless of how strong of a man I am, I know that I have to remain humbled and that I will always need and have that vital lifeline I have so lovingly learned to call "My Family" to help me through each and every battle I fight. Family truly is everything!

Thank you for sharing your powerful and positive words with us Joaquin. 
Is is such a beautiful  thing how our children can remind us how blessed we truly are. 
How did having children come into your life change your beliefs? 

- Joaquin Garcia is a 28 year old Navy veteran. Joaquin is sweet, sensitive and over 6 feet tall. He is currently an active navy reservist as well as working towards a certification as an EMT He is looking forward to pursuing a career in law enforcement. He can recite entire Snapple commercial's from memory. His favorite animal is the bald eagle because it represents our country and why he chose to fight for it and his family. He cannot wait be married to his beautiful fiance Cassandra and become step-dad to her 3 children. They are expecting their first child together this summer. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mexico Barbie- Is she more than just a toy?

Last week we noticed that Mattel had recently released a new line of Barbies called "Barbies of the World". This line includes dolls from Japan, Spain, France, Scotland and even the Amazon. All over Facebook I kept seeing friends voicing their opinions on the new Mexico Barbie. She is described as...

¡Hola! Welcome to Mexico! Inspired  by traditional mariachis and marimbas, Mexico Barbie® doll is ready for any fiesta! Doll wears a bright pink ruffled dress with colorful lace and ribbon accents. Includes “passport,” country stickers, Chihuahua friend and brush.

And she looks like this.... 

Cristina Rodriguez had a very strong opinion on the matter. On Facebook she stated

 "Mattel's Mexican Barbie!!! Grrrrrrr I don't like it!!!! So many reasons why!!!! #lame"  

We asked her to tell us a little bit about why this Mexico Barbie was so upsetting to her...... 

           I’ve always loved Barbies. I loved dressing them up and creating an imaginary life for them. Now that I’m older I’m not quite sure I relate to Barbies. With the emergence of the new “Mexican Barbie” I became quite disappointed. Actually more than disappointed I was irate. I saw her on the 10 p.m. news. My eyes honed in on the small dog in her arms. She held a Chihuahua and was dressed in a Jalisco dress. Those things really didn’t make me as angry as the fact that she comes with a passport. The things that raced through my mind are what are the ideas children will believe based on this “Mexican Barbie”? I thought do all Mexican girls look like this? Do they all have Chihuahuas? Do they carry a passport? No, No they don’t.  “Regular Barbie” doesn't come with a passport! Not all women look like Barbie period. Just like not all women are the proportion or “perfection” of Barbie, not all Mexicans are “Mexican Barbies”. Some of us wear jeans. Some Mexican women don’t like dogs. Some love dogs. Yes, Mexicans are documented and undocumented. Is that the point that is trying to be made here? Mexicans should come with legal status. The underlying “hidden” message if you will is legal status. I felt disappointed and upset. I tried to be objective and say that this is just one depiction of a “Mexican woman”. I tried to say it was just a doll, that maybe the passport is for her exciting adventurous life. Maybe “Mexican Barbie” studies abroad from time to time that’s why she needs a passport. Really? Who are we kidding? So many thoughts and concerns cross my mind while looking at what people see as just a doll. Barbie is more than a doll she is someone little girls admire and long to be. I have a goddaughter who is 5 and is already struggling with identity issues mainly her body image based on what she sees and hears. That just demonstrates how social constructions, media and environment can impact and shape the thoughts of a child. The truth is in order to do complete justice to any human these dolls need to come in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, occupations, etc. My biggest concern lies in the smallest accessory that comes with this doll. This small accessory conveys the biggest message.

Cristina, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. 
This new Mexico Barbie has really caused some discussion. 
What do you think? Is this just a doll, or is it sending a deeper message? 
Leave us a comment. We want to hear your opinion! 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Drowning in DEBT - A Cautionary Tale

The following post was sent to HerMamas.com by an anonymous author. The opinions in this post do not reflect the opinions of the writers or editors of HerMamas.com. Thank you.

I grew up with a mother who was the best saver on earth. She taught us all the value of saving, becoming homeowners and working hard. I grew up believing I was good with money. I got married and soon discovered I was not very good with money at all and my husband was worse than me. Actually I married my husband and expected him to magically provide for my every financial need and whim. I didn't want to manage our money or think even about how to handle financial decisions. I deferred it all to my him and soon we were drowning. That's my FIRST regret. As women we often want men to come in and take care of us. I learned the hard way that I'd have to take care of myself, always. 

I married a man who adored me, made a great living right out of college and fueled his day to day with dreams of wealth and financial freedom. Soon after marriage we became homeowners, parents and started keeping up with the "Joneses." All was good until my husband decided to build his own business. He quit his job and though financially terrifying (and something my mom would't recommend) I followed him. We poured everything into a business that ultimately failed. It was the ugliest time of my life and to think I was only in my mid-twenties. We became buried in debt through lines of credit, credit cards, payday advances, personal loans, pawn shop hustles and anything else to make a quick buck.

One might think you could isolate the financial issues from a marriage, an extended family and even your own children, but you can't. My marriage was such a failure during those years of mounting debt. I was cruel to my husband. I hated him for not providing and yet I co-signed on all of his crazy schemes, pipe-dreams and wishful, but ultimately failed solutions. That's my SECOND regret. I blamed him for all of our failures. Our house almost foreclosing, our only car being repossessed, us living in a 250 sq. ft rental the size of a tool shed, yes the size of a tool shed in someone's backyard. I blamed him and so I was mean and bitter. I was not accountable to my role in our debt accumulation and I simply fought with him everyday. The man who adored me was left unrecognizable. I was angry. I was so, so, so immature.

The hardest part was the pretending. I didn't want anyone to know our business was tanking and that we lived in this little shed with our daughter. That she would cry and cry for a bottle and we didn't have two dollars for milk. We would fight in front of her. We were utterly unhappy and deeply depressed. The pressure of debt made us crazy.

I hated holidays the most. One mother's day I gave my mother a plant and vase from the $99 cent store. She probably thought I was nuts and blind. She didn't say a thing ever, but mom knew. My savvy-saving mom had to know. I remember dreading how Christmas was around the corner then remembering I had a credit card with Best Buy. That year everyone got DVDs and phone cases, but what do you buy your two-year-old from an electronics store? Luckily, I found a stuffed animal with headphones and thought "thank you God." I thanked God and inside felt like such a failure.

My FINAL regret was not acting sooner. I let my life spiral out of control because of debt. All because of dreams that though wonderful, my husband and I weren't ready to accomplish quite yet. We didn't know the discipline of business ownership and so we failed.

I eventually found a job. I remember meeting a man who sold cars in payments. I bought an old stick shift from him not knowing how to even drive it, but I knew I could pay him two hundred dollars every two weeks. I did this without my husband. I didn't need him to save me anymore. Slowly I got better and soon my husband who I had beat down with cruel words of hate and threats of divorce about daily, found a job too. We began working... we began saving... we began CHANGING!

I don't recognize us anymore and I am proud that we came away better not worse, together not apart. And sure we'll probably be old and gray still paying off debt, maybe we'll rent for a lifetime and maybe our children won't have too many luxuries afforded by credit cards, but they'll have a set of parents who weathered through financial turmoil and distress and still managed to stay together and build a life far away from that shed and those hateful words exchanged by mom and dad.

I have a great career as does my husband and together we've learned how to handle our finances, save money and act practically not wishfully. Together we've healed from the drowning effects of debt and we've regained our love and respect for one another. Hope this serves as a cautionary tale and by me sharing a bit of what happened to my family, it helps avoid it happening to another. 

Thank you for sharing your story anonymous. As you mention, hopefully others going through the same thing find value in what you learned through this experience. If you have a comment regarding this author's story, please share it below.

Otherwise, find out how you can submit your stories (anonymously or not) by clicking here.  

Finally, to everyone who submitted a post for anonymous guest post week, thank you! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mother-in-law from HELL

The following post was sent to HerMamas.com by an anonymous author. The opinions in this post do not reflect the opinions of the writers or editors of HerMamas.com. Thank you.

I just have to get this off my chest. My mother-in-law has to be the meanest person on earth. Since day one of my marriage to her son (probably before), I've dealt with her attitude and constant criticism. She thinks her way is the best way at everything.

We have a two year old and everything I do for her is criticized or condemned by my MIL. She literally starts sentences with "you're doing it wrong..." And it doesn't help that she watches our daughter once sometimes up to three times a week. We need the child care and she loves our princess. At least her granddaughter deserves some love.

But is love for our daughter enough? And what the hell is her problem? Bitter old hag! Okay, that was mean too. Glad this is anonymous!

I digress, my MIL gets to be so rude all because "that's just the way she is" or "she means well." I hear that from everyone who knows her and how I feel about the situation. But that doesn't help. My poor husband gets stuck in the middle of it all trying to appease her and me. He has stood up for me and of course she totally backpedals and never really acts remorseful.

But don't get it twisted, as they say! I'm a strong woman so I stand up for myself too, but for respect to my husband I express things civilly. I wonder if that's getting me anywhere. I'd never want to feed into battling against her judgements or her bitter approach, but my sanity could be compromised.

Okay, just venting feels good, but I need some solutions. How do I deal with this woman's attitude and keep it together myself? Please help!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I Love Being a Working Mom

The following post was sent to HerMamas.com by an anonymous author. The opinions in this post do not reflect the opinions of the writers or editors of HerMamas.com

I am going to admit something. I am a Mom and I love going to work. That is really hard to admit. As a Mom aren't we suppose to want to be with out kids all day long?  But I do not feel guilty about not being home with my kids. I don't feel bad that I enjoy the 8 hours away from home. I love the challenge of my job and I feel that I am contributing to society. I thought that once I had children I would find a way to be a stay-at-home Mom, but after 3 months of maternity leave I was more than ready to head back to the office. 

I respect those stay-at-home Moms. That is a tough job, much tougher than what I do in an office all day. But it's a job I do not want. I really felt like I was drowning at home all day with my kids. I know that raising children is the most important job, but to me it felt unfulfilling. I know that I am a better Mom to my kids because I leave the house for 8 hours a day. I am better to them because I have something else in my life that is rewarding to me. So instead of feeling guilty that I am at work, I really just feel guilty because I enjoy it so much. 

Thanks Anonymous! I have to admit that I know exactly how you feel. 
What about you? Do you like going to work during the day? 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Falling OUT of Love

The following post was sent to HerMamas.com by an anonymous author. The opinions in this post do not reflect the opinions of the writers or editors of HerMamas.com. Thank you.                      

Love is all rainbows and butterflies until it is not. I remember being in that place thinking I'd be with my boyfriend forever. Then forever boiled down to only about 5 years. I don't know how it happened, but I actually began falling out of love. I wanted him around less and less. He annoyed me more and more. The worst part is I felt he and I were such different people. Five years ended up separating us more than they bonded us. 

Falling out of love is hard. There's the mutual friendships that change. The families that also feel an impact and what about the world you shared together? For a while I felt I couldn't go anywhere that my ex and I went. It was all such a process of closing a chapter. Then I found myself thinking about my ex all the time. I was getting over him and missing him all at once. Falling out of love is CRAZY!

But I didn't want to be in the relationship anymore so I ended it. What is surprising is that I cried often. I was sad and I probably secretly hoped he'd come back saying all that right things and we'd begin where we left off. But I didn't really love him anymore. Falling out of love, even when it's the right thing, hurts. Who knew? Did you?

Anonymous: thank you for sharing your opinion (and feelings) with us. Now we invite other readers to share... 

How did you cope with the end of love?                                                                                                                         

Monday, April 8, 2013

ADHD or Is It Just Bad Parenting?

The following post was sent to HerMamas.com by an anonymous author. The opinions in this post do not reflect the opinions of the writers or editors of HerMamas.com

This may not be the most politically correct thing to say. But I think that some of these kids that are diagnosed with ADHD are really just little brats being raised by parents who are doing a really bad job.

Growing up I don't remember kids in my class having issues like ADHD. I do remember little brats who couldn't sit still in class, were always disruptive and constantly in trouble for not following the rules. These days a lot of those bratty kids are simply given a diagnosis of ADHD. The parents are given an excuse for their child's behavior. Now don't get me wrong, I do believe that there are some kids that legitimately have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and need to be on some type of medication. But I do think that some of these kids with an ADHD diagnosis are just victims of extreme new-agey parenting where any kind of discipline does not happen.

You have met a family like this, where the kids runs the house. The kid decided where to go, what to eat, when to eat, when to sleep! The whole household bows down to this kids every whim. This kid grows up believing that the rules of the world do not apply to them. Then this kid gets into a classroom setting and is wild and out of control. The parents cannot understand why their brilliant child is having such a hard time in school. They get down to their kids level and have a conversation about the issues in school. And the little kid, who believes the sun sets for him doesn't get it either. Doctors get involved and an ADHD diagnosis is given and the parents now have a nice excuse for their bad parenting, their lack of discipline and for their child's disruptive, inappropriate and just all around bad behavior.

WOW! What a controversial opinion. What do you think? Do you agree with anonymous on this? 

If you have anything you want to submit anonymously get all the details HERE

Friday, April 5, 2013

Letting Kids Win

Everyone has been there. You're "racing" an adorable 3-year old and there's no way you're letting them lose. We pretend to lose often to watch a beaming child sore with victory. We enjoy letting them win, all the time. 

Then there comes a time when you decide to play fair and maybe during a simple game of tic-tac-toe you don't let your child win. That beaming child now looks devastated. 

For me, this decision to play fair has come at a cost. It is my suspicion that this price is paid by anyone who decides to have their children experience the natural consequences of losing. My grade-schooler is über-competitive. I have no idea where he picked it up! (okay maybe it was from me). In the past, he'd lose, and the aftermath went like this: kid in tears and parents in lecture mode...

"Be a good sport... Don't cry... You can't win all the time... blah, blah, blah"

As of late, my 6 1/2 yr. son and I play a lot of card games together and my husband challenges him to one-on-one soccer matches. More often than not, my husband and son end up butting heads because my son doesn't win every single match. Granted we still might let him win sometimes, but when we don't a "battle"  usually ensues. 

Here's what's helped me alleviate this battle. While playing a simple game of cards with my son, I first notice his demeanor and catch when he is beginning to get frustrated. I know he's eager to win, but I let the game run its course, and if I win and he begins to cry I kindly feedback his feelings:

"I see you're upset and don't like losing." "This time, I won." "Want to try again?"

Sometimes he composes himself quickly. In fact, the time it takes him to compose himself has gotten shorter and shorter with each so-called "battle." Then sometimes my kindness is met with anger. Then other times it is met with him wiping his tears and wanting to try again. So my son has really come a long way with losing. He is upset when this happens, sure, but he's also grown to accept that losing is natural. 

At two recent school functions my son lost multiple raffles and when he did, I saw how upset he was. But he quietly wiped the creeping tears from his eyes, got himself together and offered his feedback on his own feelings...

"I'm upset mom.  I don't like losing. Maybe I'll win next time?"

I nodded and listened. I reassured him that I get it and we moved on with ease. Losing is a part of life. Suddenly kids realize they're not perfect all the time. This can be challenging for their little minds to handle, but with tender love and care the feelings that come with losing can be explored and valued. Through losing a child can develop coping skills for life and the natural growing pains of life.

What's your take on letting kids win? Letting them lose?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Birthday Party Venues

Feels like my grade schooler is getting invited to parties pretty much bi-monthly and I can't wait to see where we're celebrating next. Gone are the days where parents watch their kids have fun at a birthday party. Birthday party venues have really evolved, and the best part, parents are now in on the action.

Here are some of my favorite venues...

Sky Zone: This place is trampoline heaven. Families basically come here to jump and dive their hearts out. Sure you can drop your kid off and come back when the shin-digs over, but I vote stay and JUMP! This venue also serves for as a fun workout for parents. It can run a little pricy, but more and more parents are talking about how much fun their guests have at Sky Zone. Cost: approx. $250 for 2 hrs (10 jumpers, addt'l cost per jumper, prices may vary).

Scooter's Jungle: I love this place. I really, really do. I've tried everything at this bounce-house mega complex. Kids and adults can use everything from the slides to scooters (Okay, maybe not everything, the zip-line is for kids only, boooooo). Parties at Scooter's Jungle can be private and all-inclusive (drinks, food, games, etc). Also, if you pick a non-peak slot (i.e. 9:30am on a Sunday) you're able to book at a discount. Think bagels and other brunch fixings for early parties. Cost: approx. $299-$515 for a 2.5 hr private event  (20 kids/20 adults).

Mulligans: Who doesn't like mini-golf, go-carts and arcades? Mulligans has plenty of comparable venues across the country that offer fun attractions while remaining much more reasonably prized than a theme park. Cost: approx. $239-$369 (10 guests).

Bowling Ally: Bowling is a great family activity. It's also a tons of fun for birthday celebrations while not being so long. A two hour bowling party is plenty for cake, gifts, bowling and pictures. Plus, guests can opt to stay longer (while not at the host's expense). Cost: approx. $85 per lane (2 hours, minimum 5 kids per lane).

So there you go 4 quick venues to get you thinking about birthday party fun spots that require little prep and pre-packaged deals. Plus, it's fun that everyone can take part in, so ENJOY moms and dads! 

Where have you hosted some of the best birthday parties? 
Share your venue ideas with us...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Photo Editing in a Few Simple Clicks

Digital photography is awesome! Gone are the days when you got one roll of film. Now you can just keep snapping away. I keep a 32gb card in my camera and I can literally take over 8000 pictures. I also love digital photo editing. There are really great programs like Photoshop out there, but they are really expensive and unless you are a professional it can be too much. And as a Mom I can say that "ain't nobody got time for that!". Lucky for us there are great (and FREE) photo editing sites on-line that I think work just as great. 

My favorite is Ribbet.com. If your used to use picnik.com than Ribbet.com will be a breeze to navigate. But even if you are new to photo editing this site it really user friendly. I am going to walk you through a few easy steps to take a normal picture and make it even better.

When you open Ribbet.com your welcome screen will have the option to upload a picture. Simply upload the photo you want to edit and your and your picture will be taken to the edit screen . Here you will find a few different tools, but for today's tutorial we are just going to stick with "Basic Edits" and "Effects".

(you can click on any of these photos for a closer look) 

 The first thing we are going to do is crop the photo. This picture was taken at a zoo and there was a lot of traffic in the background. I want to eliminate as much of the people in the background and at the same time keeping all of my main subject. When you click on crop you have a pull-down menu of different sizes. I recommend keeping it on "Original Proportions", especially if you are going to be printing your photos. This grid will come up on your image and you just pull the circles on the edge until you are satisfied with your image and then clip the "Apply" button.

After we have cropped out as much as we can its time for a little effect magic. The great thing about these type of photo-editing sites is they come with a ton of great pre-set filters. Instead of you having to tweak colors, temperature, white balance and other things, these filters give you a different look with just a click. Ribbet.com has a ton of great effects to work with. And if the effect is too dark or light or not colorful enough you can use the slide bars to get the exact look you want.

With this photo I went with the Cairo effect. I set the vignette to 0% because I did not want the dark ring around the edges. I liked this effect because it made the reds really stand out.

 After you have chosen the effects you all that is left to do is click the "Save & Share" tab. From here you can save this image to your computer, your Flickr account, post it on Facebook and print it.

Happy Editing!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Anonymous Guest Post Week (& Contest)!

Ever wish you could share something anonymously?
Do you want to share your honest but anonymous opinion? Well here's your chance! All of next week HerMamas.com will feature anonymous guest posts by readers who want to share their opinions....anonymously. From the minor to the major, feel free to divulge anything you've been itching to share with the world. Simply email your anonymous guest post to Irene@hermamas.com or Elissa@hermamas.com. HerMamas.com will publish your post and keep the best part out (your identity). Maybe you want to counter popular opinion on current affairs, rant about your annoying husband or friend. Maybe you want to get a little secret off your chest? Again, doesn't matter what you're itching to share... HerMamas.com will share it during a WEEK of anonymous guest posts.

Heck, you can even create a fake email to ensure your post is truly anonymous (from us). And for going through all that trouble, readers who email us anonymous guest posts will be entered to win a free $10 Starbucks giftcard (sent via email).  So make sure you remember the password to your fake email and check back to hear if you've WON! 

Submit your anonymous guest post today. 

Anonymous week kicks off Monday, April 8th!

We can't wait to read what you REALLY have to say!