Friday, August 29, 2014

Current Obsessions- Back to School Edition


We are in the thick of back to school over at HerMamas. This is always a hectic but exciting time of year. One of my favorite parts is all the back to school supply shopping. I am such a sucker for school supplies! Here are some of the back to school things we are obsessing over.

Kids' Fashion (high-top sneakers): My son has really turned a corner with back to school clothes shopping. In the last year, his style has been solidified and he takes pride in dressing himself and picking out his own clothes. These days he's all about high-top sneaks with layered shirts and jeans. To kick off the school year he ended up with two pair of colorful high-top sneakers to mix-up his daily options and I think he looks adorable!

Journaling: not only is my son writing in his back-to-school planner but his teacher handed out calendar journals during the 1st day of school which he immediately began using. My kiddo loves writing in his journal and calendar planner. I'm thrilled to see what he fills his day with and how he's becoming organized through writing. 

Classroom Student Roster: I can't believe how excited I was about the annual class post. My son's school lists a child's classroom, teacher and classmates two days before school begins. This night is usually pretty exciting, but we oddly missed it this year. The next morning I made the solo trek to my son's school to find this list. I was literally high-fiving myself reading names of kids I recognized and knew my son enjoyed being friends with. Then I went over the list with my son a few times and this was just the thing to get him fully pumped for back to school! 

Weekly Organizer: We do a homeschool program through a local charter school and it is a lot of work. It really is a family affair and if we are not organized and have a schedule we find ourselves rushing on the day before assignments are due. When it comes to school schedules I LOVE a good free printable weekly organizer. I fill it in once a week with everything from daily assignments, blog post ideas, doctor appointments, library visits and even the daily menu. The whole family knows where the schedule is and can easily look and see what's going on that day.


Trapper Keeper: Yes they are back. Unfortunately they don't have the old school awesome pictures like a unicorn jumping over a rainbow, or kittens in a basket. They come in just plain colors, but are still awesome for keeping all my kid's work neat and organized. And don't worry, I already tweeted the company asking about getting some of the classic designs back for next year.

Boogie Board: No this is not the kind you use at the beach, these are actually LCD writing tablets. Kind of like an e-pad of paper. We use use this like we would a white board. Something that we can write on, do practice math problems, do a spelling test etc. We can do all the things we would use scratch paper for without wasting paper! A simple push of a button and the whole screen is cleared! 

Are you or your kiddos back to school?
What are some of your favorite back to school items?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Criticizing Kids... Does it help or hurt?!?


Criticism is tough on anyone let alone kids! Growing up I knew early on that my mother was overly critical. What's occurred since? I've oscillated between refraining from criticizing my children, gently judging them or down right nagging them with my constant criticism. However, there has to be a happy medium.   

Kids shouldn't only hear about how perfect, awesome and great they are. Though they're likely magnificent human beings. What child isn't? We love our children. Each have amazing gifts, but they can't literally be the best at absolutely everything! At some point a parent will have to judge their child if at least to redirect bad habits. 

For my son, I'd like him to work on improving simple habits such as sloppy handwriting and more important tendencies such as humility. While doing so I don't want him to confuse my guidance as judgemental feedback that breaks his sprit. The kicker then is to criticize with sensitivity and honesty. Admittedly, I'm not often the best in this area. If I become overly frustrated, suddenly I find myself nagging my kid about something he did "wrong" over and over again when my intention was to be helpful not critical. 

Through parenting trial and error, I have learned to become much more of an active listener when it comes time to be critical. For instance, during day one of soccer practice my son immediately arrived to practice acting in a way that I perceived as boastful. I understood he felt confidence and how he wanted to play to win, but I also know that it's important to show humility especially in sports.

In this moment there was a great opportunity to teach my child about modesty regardless of my perception. I asked him to define modesty and when he couldn't I said it was the opposite of bragging! Immediately he felt judged. He insisted "I'm not showwwwing off!" I agreed, "you aren't!" 

Then I proceed to discuss that reminding him to be modest wasn't because he was doing anything "wrong" or because I considered him a show-off. What I wanted to convey was simply a lesson in humility! We chatted for a while and soon what I was communicating didn't feel like criticism but felt more like a teachable moment. 

How do you express criticism to your children without crushing their spirit and nagging?!?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What Makes Your Soulmate Great?

If you took your relationship cues from Hollywood's depiction of love, your partner (or soulmate) would be tall, dark and handsome. They with their perfect smile would be chronically sensitive, in perfect shape, the epitome of understanding, and always pleasant.

Hollywood makes it all look so easy, fancy and fun.

Just the other day, I got to thinking about this mainstream love facade, what really makes a soulmate great and what it actually takes to make relationships work. It takes work.

My husband is perfectly made for me without being perfect. In fact, we're total opposites in ways that work while being the same in areas that set us back.  I can be hot-headed and turbulent while he's peace in any storm. He can be mellow to a fault while driven enough for the both of us. We work within the goodness that is us and resist the faults that make us human. 

Love is an ebb and flow. In my opinion, the best relationships are ever-evolving, grounded and compassionate in all things.

The other day, I texted my hubby that I was feeling low. I was bumming around in a funk that spilled from one day into the next. Not sure what most soulmates might respond to a wife's woest-me moment, but here's what my husband texted back…. 



So there I was in a funk, and my soulmate was coming from a place of compassion. He texted me back with all these solutions. After loving me 11+ years, well beyond the honeymoon stage, he could have written "snap out of it, STOP." Instead, he warmed my heart with a supportive tone and bright ideas. And with 7 simple texts my funk somehow dissolved. In that instant I remembered how beautiful it is to love and be loved. 

So, what makes a soulmate great? To me, the answer is simple, a soulmate that makes you better is the epitome of LOVE and the definition of greatness!

Tell us, what makes a soulmate great?!?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hey Mo'Ne! You Throw Like a Girl

Recently we talked about how the Always company had a new campaign out bringing to light the use of the term "...like a girl". The idea was change the meaning of "...like a girl" to mean fast, strong, good, instead of weak or clumsy. How many times have you heard someone say, "You throw like a girl!". Well recently a 13 year old girl named Mo'Ne Davis has redefined what that term means.



Mo'Ne was one of only 2 girls to play in the 2014 Little League World Series. She pitched for the Philadelphia Taney Dragons . That is a big deal in itself. But this kid has the arm of gold! At just 13 years old she not only has a mean curve ball, but she can throw a ball at 70 miles per hour. 7-0! That is about 20 miles per hour faster than most boys her age. She is causing quite a commotion in the sports world, so much so that she graced the cover of Sport Illustrated. That's right a 13 year old girl is on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine.


As the Momma to 2 girls I am happy to see Mo'Ne Davis and her achievements get so much public attention. She is a reminder that girls can do anything they set their mind to and that being #likeagirl can mean throwing a 70 mile per hour fast ball in the Little League World Series.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Beating the Back to School Blues

Maybe your kids are ready to go back to school? My kid, not so much! He's great when it comes to academic and social aspects of school, but it's always hard to get him back into a school routine. There's nothing that stings quite like hearing a child proclaim "ugh, I don't like school." I'm sure my child doesn't mean it, however, this is the exact statement I get a few days before the 1st day of school. It isn't that he doesn't like school. It's just hard for him to say goodbye to summertime fun. I understand.

So this is how we're handling the back to school blues:

My son has begun journaling. This is a great way for kids to write down their feelings, nervousness, excitement, or in my kid's case, avoidance of back to school. There are actually great school year planners that make journaling fun. These planners ask kids questions, map out their goals and allow kids to write down daily to-dos. My son got one of these neat planners (The Whimpy Kid School Planner) recently and he immediately began writing away. This process got him so much more excited about third grade. 


Planning play dates with school friends.  This is another great way to get kids back into the swing of things.  So my kid may not know who his teacher will be, what friends he'll have in class, but he knows kids from school and just being around them gets him giddy and pumped about seeing them on the playground every recess. 

Back to school shopping is such a great way to beat the blues. This is a ritual for most families, but remember not to make this feel like just another chore. Let kids pick what they want, moms. I know sometimes "what they want" means them picking out impractical lunch pails and impossibly loud t-shirts, but their excitement should outweigh momma's good sense (at least half the time). Get kids thinking about the outfits they'll wear, the books they'll read and all else. This should help add to the positivity of back to school season. 

Talk about what the next grade level specifically has to offer! This might sound silly but every grade level has something neat about it. For my kiddo there are a couple of key details to consider. For starters, he gets to do some fun school projects as a third grader (i.e. Spanish classes). He also gets to feel like a pretty big deal since his school divides playgrounds into two groups: 1st-3rd and 4th-5th. Being the oldest in one of the playgrounds makes him feel like a big cheese! Kids his age love feeling "older." Next, in our school district, every 3rd graders receives a chrome tablet for the year. After filling him in on this detail he was suddenly not so resistant about going back to school!

How do you get your reluctant little ones ready for back-to-school?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Break-Up Songs



I recently listened to a podcast all about break-ups and it took me back to those bad high school and even college break-ups. I was always the cliche of a girl after a break-up. My hair in a messy bun, wearing sloppy sweats, no make-up, tear stained face carrying around either a tub of ice cream or tube of cookie dough, moping around listening to the ultimate break-up mix. These songs helped to re-live the awful break-ups moments over and over again. Letting me dwell in the hurt feelings until I was ready to move on from sad love songs to more happy tunes.

So what are some of the ultimate break-up jams??? I asked my Facebook friends for some suggestions and it seemed like everyone had at least one. Here are a few they suggested......

Sukiyaki by A Taste of Honey: The opening line alone tells you that this is going to be a very sad song, "It's all because of you, I'm feeling sad and blue". This song can perfectly describe how a break up feels in the peak of the hurt.

Your Ex-Lover is Dead by Stars- This title sounds like it might be a break up jam that could make you feel a little better! A very Morrissey-esque and The Postal Service vibe. This starts with that awkward run in with the ex. The soft horns and piano make this song perfect to listen to while sitting in a dark room while it pours rain outside.

Best Thing I Never Had- Beyonce:  This is the song that you sing at the top of your lungs after the crying has stopped and the anger has set it. "Sucks to be you right now!... I am the one that got away.... Honestly you turned out to be the best thing I never had". 

Without You the Mariah Carey Version: this break up song is so awesome that it had been remade over and over again. So you initiated the break up and now you are totally regretting it. This is the jam you sing in the shower so the water can hide your tears. And also because you sound just like Mariah in the bathroom because the acoustics are so good.

Someone Like You by Adele:  This whole album by Adele was said to have been written by the singer after a horrid break up.  So when this song came out it become a break up anthem. This song goes beyond the break up and your ex's wedding day. Ugh we have all been there.

Mandy by Barry Manilow: Now this song has had to have been in a movie playing during a sad break up scene. Seriously listen to this song and you picture a sad man behind the wheel of a car in the rain (there is always rain) listening to this and crying.

You Outta Know by Alanis Morrissette:  The entire Jagged Little Pill album is pretty much the ultimate angry break up album. Alanis really captured the emotions that you go through during a break up. Uncle Joey from Full House really did a number on her! I can remember when my BFF went through a bad bad break up in high school. This entire album was on repeat 24/7.

Everything I Own by Bread: An old song but new to me and oh man is it a perfect sad break up song. A total 70's vibe. This was your parents teenage years break up song. The perfect song to play over and over again while trying to figure out the best way to get your ex back. The song may be old school but the message and the feelings still ring so true today.


My personal list includes....

The 1st Cut is the Deepest by Sheryl Crow
It's Been Awhile by Staind
Don't Speak by No Doubt
Somebody I Use to Know by Gotye
Picture of You by The Cure (well almost anything by The Cure really)
Sort Of by Ingrid Michaelson
Konstantine by Something Corporate.

But in my opinion Phil Collins is the king of the break up song.

Show 'em how it's done Phil......



Break ups are hard but I believe that good music can be like therapy. 
What songs would you add to this list? 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dear daughter: "I should have kept my hands to myself, I am sorry!"

I spanked my daughter earlier this week. I don't typically spank my children, but wish I could say I never do. Truth is, I've always believed spanking is a rare but necessary part of parenting if the reason to spank is valid, but what's really a valid reason? Validity is where things get tricky. 

And here's where they get tricker? I was wrong for spanking my daughter because I did it out of my own frustrations and not because her behaviors warranted corporal punishment. 

I should have counted to 10, walked away, or given the moment more time for things to de-escalate. I was quick to anger because my daughter was snatching my younger son's electronic device and kept doing it without regard to his feelings. She repeatedly ignored me as I urged her to stop and as her little brother wailed. 

She was wrong in her behavior, but how did me "hitting" her make things right? She wasn't respecting her brother, so in turn I get to disrespect her? Doesn't seem logical.



I immediately regretted spanking and yelling. As I spanked (and lectured) she looked up saying, "ok, ok, ok." But it wasn't "ok." I eventually apologized for spanking and once again she answered "it's okay!" I responded "NO, it wasn't okay. I should have kept my hands to myself and I am sorry!"

Spanking children like in the example I explained is usually a matter of a parent's immaturity and lack of self-control. Spanking is a quick fix and it's usually counter-productive. I wholehearted get that and in my imperfect reaction the other day (which was to spank), I hope my ability to articulate an apology, and demonstrate a lesson that even moms get it wrong, teaches my daughter about accountability, remorse and forgiveness.

How often do you spark, if at all? Why or why not?




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Break-Up Songs



I recently listened to a podcast all about break-ups and it took me back to those bad high school and even college break-ups. I was always the cliche of a girl after a break-up. My hair in a messy bun, wearing sloppy sweats, no make-up, tear stained face carrying around either a tub of ice cream or tube of cookie dough, moping around listening to the ultimate break-up mix. These songs helped to re-live the awful break-ups moments over and over again. Letting me dwell in the hurt feelings until I was ready to move on from sad love songs to more happy tunes.

So what are some of the ultimate break-up jams??? I asked my Facebook friends for some suggestions and it seemed like everyone had at least one. Here are a few they suggested......

Sukiyaki by A Taste of Honey: The opening line alone tells you that this is going to be a very sad song, "It's all because of you, I'm feeling sad and blue". This song can perfectly describe how a break up feels in the peak of the hurt.
 
Your Ex-Lover is Dead by Stars- This title sounds like it might be a break up jam that could make you feel a little better! A very Morrissey-esque and The Postal Service vibe. This starts with that awkward run in with the ex. The soft horns and piano make this song perfect to listen to while sitting in a dark room while it pours rain outside.

Best Thing I Never Had- Beyonce:  This is the song that you sing at the top of your lungs after the crying has stopped and the anger has set it. "Sucks to be you right now!... I am the one that got away.... Honestly you turned out to be the best thing I never had". 

Without You the Mariah Carey Version: this break up song is so awesome that it had been remade over and over again. So you initiated the break up and now you are totally regretting it. This is the jam you sing in the shower so the water can hide your tears. And also because you sound just like Mariah in the bathroom because the acoustics are so good.

Someone Like You by Adele:  This whole album by Adele was said to have been written by the singer after a horrid break up.  So when this song came out it become a break up anthem. This song goes beyond the break up and your ex's wedding day. Ugh we have all been there.

Mandy by Barry Manilow: Now this song has had to have been in a movie playing during a sad break up scene. Seriously listen to this song and you picture a sad man behind the wheel of a car in the rain (there is always rain) listening to this and crying.

You Outta Know by Alanis Morrissette:  The entire Jagged Little Pill album is pretty much the ultimate angry break up album. Alanis really captured the emotions that you go through during a break up. Uncle Joey from Full House really did a number on her! I can remember when my BFF went through a bad bad break up in high school. This entire album was on repeat 24/7.

Everything I Own by Bread: An old song but new to me and oh man is it a perfect sad break up song. A total 70's vibe. This was your parents teenage years break up song. The perfect song to play over and over again while trying to figure out the best way to get your ex back. The song may be old school but the message and the feelings still ring so true today.


My personal list includes....

The 1st Cut is the Deepest by Sheryl Crow
It's Been Awhile by Staind
Don't Speak by No Doubt
Somebody I Use to Know by Gotye
Picture of You by The Cure (well almost anything by The Cure really)
Sort Of by Ingrid Michaelson
Konstantine by Something Corporate.

But in my opinion Phil Collins is the king of the break up song.

Show 'em how it's done Phil......



Break ups are hard but I believe that good music can be like therapy. 
What songs would you add to this list? 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Disney Channel Shows: A Household Obsession

The Disney Channel is a household favorite for us. The early morning cartoon selections are perfect for toddlers thanks to shows like Sofia the First and The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. My typical morning entails at least 30-60 minutes of Disney Channel to give this momma time to tidy our home and ready myself for the day.

As the day wears on, the channel's programming switches to a slurry of pre-teen shows. I must say this is where the household obsession begins. My 8 year old could sit in front of the tube with Disney Channel on all day, if we let him. Of course, we limit the amount of TV he watches, but a lot of these Disney shows are pretty awesome. I actually don't mind his interest in this kind of television and often find myself watching along with him.

These are some must watch Disney Channel Shows:

Gravity Falls: is one of the only animated shows of it's kind for a pre-teen audience. I've already raved about this show in other Hermamas.com posts, but I had to mention it again since my son and I LOVE the series so much. It's hilarious and so well written. We find ourselves repeating the show's silly one-liners all day long.



Dog with a Blog: we're a dog loving family so naturally we took to this show. This series is about a typical American family except for the fact that their dog TALKS (and obviously, blogs)! Talking animals aren't a new concept, but this show is the right mix of funny and sweet. My kid and I enjoy watching.



Good Luck Charlie: Another cute show that incorporates today's technology. Each show ends up being a video-blog for the little sis in the family, Charlie. The entire cast has great chemistry and the storylines are pretty cute, too. I especially love how everyone is so loving to the adorable Charlie character.


Austin and Ally: this is your classic show filled with pre-teens that love to dance and sing. I love how this show is such a good influence on what my kid thinks is "cool." He often tries dancing and dressing like Austin,  a fictional character I don't mind my son imitating.


Girl Meets World:  This is a spin off of a classic TV show from my youngin' days, "Boy Meets World." This is a new show to the Disney Channel and my kiddo and I already love it. It's got great lessons splattered throughout and it's nice to Cory and Topanga Matthews back on screen as parents. Just last night while watching an episode my son leaned over and said, "I love this show!"


What are your favorite Disney Channel Shows?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Lose Weight or Lose Money!

 Money is always a good motivating factor. Research has shown that money rewards and incentives can help people keep on a healthy lifestyle. A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic gave participants $20 every month if they lost 4 pounds. If they did not lose the 4 pounds they would then have to pay $20. These people lost 7 more pounds in a year than people who did not have the money incentive.  There are new websites and apps that are using this motivation to help people lose weight.

Pact is an app for your phone. The app is free and will pay you to hit all your fitness targets. Where does the money come from? Well, it comes from members who do not meet their goals and have to pay $5.00 a week. The concept is simple. You set your weekly goals for exercise and food and then make a 'pact' to keep these goals. Throughout the week you check in at the gym (gps will verify that you really are there and for how long!) you log in the food you eat. You even take photos of fruits and veggies that you consume to prove you are consuming them! Meet your goals and earn $5.00. Don't meet your goals and pay $5.00. This app sounds motivating and also time consuming!

Healthywage.com is a place that sounds like Las Vegas for weight loss. When you sign up, you set up how much you want to lose and in what amount of time. Then you place your bet. For instance you want to lose 60 pounds in 6 months and you bet $300.00. Then you have the 6 months to lose the weight. If you meet this goal you win! If you don't then you pay them the $300.00. This program can be done individually or as a group.

Would you try a program like this? 
Are these type of money incentive programs a great way to help people with weight loss? 
Or they just a scam to take people's money? 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Being UNfriended on Facebook: An Update


About a year ago one of my best girlfriends unfriended me on Facebook. It was a group of us that got unfriended actually and boy did it suck. It sucked because this was an honest to goodness friend that suddenly shut us out. 

Before social media, we were friends. Before accepting hundreds of "friend" requests on Facebook, this girl was our BFF. Personally, she was the kind of friend that made me feel funnier, smarter,  braver and happier just by being in her presence. 

Then one day, she was incommunicado. She didn't want to be in my world. She didn't answer my calls or texts. She was gone and it hurt. 

Here's how I handled being unfriended by my longtime friend. I said my piece and apologized for the role I played in our falling out. I then didn't let being unfriended matter so much. I called even when there would be no answer. I sent Facebook messages even if they'd go ignored. I listened while other friends said "they were done with the drama and planned to move on." I listened, but I didn't agree. I just couldn't quit on a friendship that was based on reality and not comments on my newsfeed. 

Eventually, my girlfriend came around. She was back and it was like we never skipped a beat. She thanked me for never giving up or turning my back on her. She was suddenly there for me like she'd always been. 

Losing friendships is never easy, but it's a part of life. Still, not all friendships need to be lost forever. Sometimes people lose their way and misunderstandings occur. Sometimes life simply beats us down and we forget that friends are meant to make it sweeter not harder. For me, I didn't let pride come over me and made sure my friend knew I was ready when she was. I had faith things would fall back into place even after they'd come undone. And they did!

Have you ever been virtually unfriended by a close friend?!? 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Being a BUSY mom shouldn't feel like such a drag!

Yesterday was one for the history books. Having work, family in from out of town, a child celebrating a birthday and a day full of activities made for a nonstop day 6am to 11pm. I was running from one commitment to the next and literally had to psych myself out midway through with a double espresso and personal peptalk.


But what I did for the day isn't uncommon. Moms are the queens of the multitask. It comes with the parental territory and it can be managed. Here are 3 simple tips to making it all work (with relative ease, sometimes)...


Plan your next day. Mapping out your next day in writing helps a busy momma get organized and makes for a more efficient day. A simple note in your smartphone works wonders. Lay it all out by hour and do your best to stick to a predetermined plan.

Ask for help. Sure, you can do it all. You can. But you don't always have too. Yesterday I had friends babysitting and family members pitching in to make my son's bday a true success. Being good with your time doesn't mean you do everything, always, all alone. In fact, it could be that the more help you seek and use the better your ability to manage various tasks.

Check your mindset. Being busy can feel overwhelming and taxing, sure, but it's worse when you're outwardly stressed by all of your time commitments. Do your very best to stick to your daily to-do list, enjoy the help from friends and family and consciously put yourself in a state of positivity. What I often tell my son is to display "an attitude of gratitude!" This could be appropriate for busy mommas, too. Being positive about all you have to take on gives you a pleasant mindset from which to stay on task and feel good about yourself when your day is done! And whatever you do, don't complain, that is a mindset crusher that only creates added stress. It also sends the wrong message to children who might start to feel like a burden to you.


There you have it... Three simple steps for keeping it together while better managing your time! Share your tips too; comment below!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mom's 1st Birthday....

I dare you, double-dog dare you to watch this video WITHOUT crying. 

*** Did you actually click the link and watch it? If not, take the dare, and click!

Being a parent is truly one of the most complex gifts of life. We're so eager to celebrate our children's accomplishments, their milestones and to be in service to them. Plus, year one is the year a baby literally needs their parents (especially mom) the MOST! 

The above video truly captured the essence of being in service and it celebrates mommy's 1st year as much as it celebrates the baby's. Thank you Pampers for always nailing it with these ads. I especially loved this one from any years ago. Again, the message is babies need their mommas and it doesn't matter if you're a mammal or not. Everyone who makes it to year one made it with the support and guidance of loving parents. Us mommas push and pull and somehow we get our baby's through the sleepless nights, high-temps and high-tech gadgets, a dreaded SIDS paranoia and so much more.

With that said, as of late I've made a true effort to slow down. It's crazy the number of times we have to hear "enjoy it, they grow up fast!" I swear year 1 went by in the blink of an eye. However, I understand that now more than ever. What I've been especially conscious of is not simply all the firsts but all the lasts, too. Those are the real tearjerkers when you think about it.

See, we don't always remember the last time we gave our child a bottle, changed their diaper or maybe the last time we're called to tuck them in at night because they're scared. Those moments escape us and before we know it our babies are toddlers and our toddlers are grade-schoolers. I don't even want to envision when my grade-schoolers become teens. That's scary!

Today my oldest turns 8 years old. No longer does he need his old mom (he once thought I was 50 years old, I'm 33) to hand-feed him or tuck him in at night. He rather I let him borrow my iPad and watch MTV, and even still, he doesn't stop being my baby. I remember so vividly the bond created during year one of his life. It is in those 12 short months where I truly earned my parenting "stripes." 

So dear mommas: in the hustle and bustle of it all, let's remember to take a moment out of each day to slow down and enjoy not only all the firsts while hurrying to complete countless tasks, but also savor the lasts remembering that there's nothing quite as amazing as motherhood and that bond we created year one of our parenting journey. Doesn't matter how bumpy the journey, it's worth being celebrated! 

So to the dads reading this: please follow the example in video #1 and start plotting your photo gallery surprise, too! Moms deserve that and SO MUCH MORE! 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teacher's Pet

I can't believe that summer vacation is almost over. My now 4th grader starts school this Friday!

I love starting the new year on the right foot with my kids teacher, and what better way to do that than with a gift. Now in the past we have gone the typical apple for the teacher route, but thanks to Pinterest you can be more creative and with very little expense! Here are some ideas for some creative 1st day of school gifts that are sure to earn you and your kid some brownie points! (Just click on the photos to find downloadable prints!)



Mints:  Just grab a tin  and fill with mints, or you can just grab some altoids! Print out this cute tag and tape it on. So simple. So cute!



Notebook and Pencils: What teacher can't use more notebooks and pencils! These days you can find both for about $2.00. Add a sweet note with this printable label.


Hand Lotion:  Those small bottles of lotion are perfect to keep on a desk. Add a sweet note about having a smooth year. Smooth...get it....lotion...smooth.


Highlighters:  My favorite part of back to school are the school supplies. I have a real love for them. Highlighters are one of my favorites! I love this idea of a bundle of highlighters tied together with twine and this printable sweet note.


Sharpies:  All teachers will go through a lot of Sharpies throughout the year. Some twine and a note is all you need! Oh and the Sharpies of course.

                                               
                                         Hope your first day back at school is the best!  
And for you Mamas dropping off for the first time.... take some dark sunglasses because you will cry! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Menu Planning


Let me start by saying that I hate grocery shopping. I can vivdly remember my first time grocery shopping when I had moved out on my own. It was awful. My shopping trips were always the same thing. Me wandering aimlessly in the store throwing random things into my cart. Then I would get home and put everything away. Then without fail when I would go to make something for dinner I would be missing ingredients. It was such a waste of time and money.

After years of wasting I finally decided to get organized when it came to grocery shopping. Menu planning our family meals has been such a moneysaver for us. It is a little time consuming but well worth it!
  1. Look for a free printable weekly menu planner on-line and a grocery shopping list. Print a bunch and keep them in a folder. I keep mine with my printed recipes! 
  2. Fill in the menu! We have a lot of family favorite meals that seem to be on every menu, but I also like to add new items too. Pinterest is the best tool for finding new and exciting entre├ęs. 
  3. Go through each meal and write down on your grocery list the items you need. 
  4. When you have all your items listed look through your cabinets and fridge to see what items you already have. 
  5. Shop! 
I usually shop for about 10 days worth of meals and our bill comes to between $130-150, depending what other extras we need, like bathroom and personal products. The best part is that when everyone asks you "what's for dinner?", you just have to point at the menu.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Strawberry Fields Forever



What is better than great music? Great music with a great message. One of my current favorite bands La Santa Cecilia, recently released their music video for their remake of the Beatles classic "Strawberry Fields Forever". I am sure that when the Beatles performed this song they were not thinking about farm workers, but as children of Mexican immigrant families from California, La Santa Cecilia made the song a new anthem for farm workers. The music video is so sweet and done in gorgeous animation. It also reminds us how our fruits and vegetables get to our tables. It reminds us that there are people out in the strawberry fields, picking the fruit that ends up on our plates.

For me this video fills me with pride and gratitude. First I grew up near Oxnard, California and strawberry fields are a very common landscape. Also my grandparents and even my father were farm workers. They worked out in the fields handpicking fruit. Working hard to give the next generation a better life. I can't even imagine what it must be like to work physical hard labor in the hot sun. Today I work in a beautiful office with air conditioning, with a cushy chair where the most strenuous thing I have to do is take out the trash once a week. Watching this video made me feel so proud of the people in my family!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Benefits of Raising Bilingual Children



There was something I majorly took for granted as a kid. Actually quite a few things, but one particular benefit I took for granted was the fact that I was raised completely bilingual. Being a first-generation Mexican-American meant my parents were Mexican nationals who only spoke Spanish to their children. Just yesterday I enjoyed a telephone conversation with my momma completely in Spanish. As I hung up the phone I thought what I often do, "my Spanish was on point." I am proud of my bilingualism since it connects me to my heritage, my family and other benefits I'll touch on below.

My present goal is to succeed in raising bilingual children. My oldest at almost 8 years old has a foundation for the Spanish language, he completes Duolingo drills on the iPad and takes pride when others compliment his Spanish-speaking abilities. Sadly, it isn't enough and I don't consider him yet fully bilingual. We have three children, so we need to up the ante. As a solution, my husband and I strive to speak Spanish to our children often since television, childcare/school and friends will naturally inundate them with English. It's a habit we're still forming and ideally we'd like to get to the point where we only speak Spanish at home. We're not quite there, but with so many benefits we're hoping to eventually make our home a 100% Spanish-speaking household. 

And here's why:

1. Bilinguals experience an added connection to culture, heritage and opportunities. Bilingualism creates the ability to readily travel, work and study in countries that require one to know another language which in my family's case is Spanish. Bilingualism allows us to connect to more people across generations and cultures. 

2. There are also many cognitive advantages. Bilinguals are more able to multitask, focus and learn in a way that allows them to compartmentalize better. In fact, bilingual children have been shown to perform better than their monolingual peers at tasks that require active attention. 

3. Being bilingual gives children an advantage when attempting to learn a third or fourth language. It becomes easier to learn sounds, sentence structure, rhythm, etc. Plus, kids must learn a foreign language in high school as a college admissions requirement. Why not give them a leg up?

4. Kids who are bilingual tend to develop superior reading and writing skills.

5. There are some added advantages to bilingualism as we start to age. "In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset." (source: nytimes.com)

Are you bilingual, hoping to raise a bilingual child? Share your tips and comments below. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Teaching Typing


When my daughter was in 2nd grade the only homework she ever had was cursive writing. Every once in a while I would get on my soapbox, just to my husband of course, about what a waste of time it was to teach kids cursive writing. In this day and age they should be teaching grade school kids typing. It is a skill that will be a million times more useful than cursive writing. Although I have to admit, my daughter now has some pretty nice handwriting.

I was a hunt and peck type of typer for a very long time, and having the ability to type quickly and properly is such a big time saver for work and of course for blogging. Since my daughter is going to be going into 4th grade I know that typing skills will come in handy.

I have been looking for a good and free (that's very important to me!) website that was designed for kids to learn typing skills. I have finally found one, and on the BBC website of all places. Dance Mat Typing offers fun, fast-functioning, kid friendly typing lessons. The lessons start with where to place your hands and moves onto the home keys. There kids (or even adults!) are given letters and words to type. What I really liked about this site is that the keyboard is on the screen so your kids can practice typing without looking down at the keyboard. After a few lessons the screen keyboard goes away, but if you feel like your child still needs it you can bring it back with a click of the mouse.

Despite the repetition of each stage it moves fairly quickly and in just 20 minutes I could see an improvement in my daughters typing skills. I highly recommend this site!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The ($1.99) Single Dinner Taste Test

I am a firm believer in making things easier on ourselves. During my recent weight loss journey I knew the best way to succeed was to stop overeating and make meals easy. I decided to add a pre-made microwavable dish to my daily lunch plan. For almost a year I was in the business of making lunch my single "dinner" meal of the day. 

During this time frame I also wanted to keep matters affordable so I usually went with a single dinner average cost of $1.99 per meal. Also, the average caloric content per package was usually between 280-400 calories. Keep in mind, I was eating plenty during breakfast and dinner, plus snacking so 280-400 worked for one of my daily meals. This is different for everyone, so remember to never take personal dietary advice from our blog.

Anyway, there I was stocking up on different brands available in this price range and I must say overall I was compromising flavor for cost. Typically if you're paying around $2 bucks for a meal then you can expect most meals to be bland with a capitol B. There's also issues with how salty some of these meals are (so read the labels). Finally, if you are eating single dinners consider adding fresh side dishes to make your meal yummier (i.e. small green salad, bowl of fruit, etc.). 

I tried many different brands and usually went with the "on sale" choice to nab meals at around $1.99:

Lean Cuisine, Banquet, Healthy Choice, Smart Ones,  Marie Calendars (hard to find at $1.99), Eating Right (by Safeway),  Fresh & Easy Single Dinners, etc. etc.


For the most part, many of the above brands were pretty good, but I'd say skip the following less flavorful brands: Smart Ones and Banquet. They're typically the cheapest in the frozen food aisle and that's for a reason. Sadly, cost usually means compromising on flavor.


Some of my absolute favorite meals have been the following:


Healthy Choice: Golden Roasted Turkey Breast
I'm usually pretty much a lover of all things smothered in gravy. I like how this dinner felt complete with the right mix of sweet and savory. I also liked the side of veggies it included.

Lean Cuisine: Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo 
Yum, this is actually a pretty good version of such a popular italian meal. I like to add pepper flakes or a dash of black pepper for an added zing. This dish satisfies a quick pasta craving every time. 

Fresh and Easy : Chicken Tikka Masala
Now, this is my absolute favorite. It smells delicious right out of the microwave. It's a tad bit spicy, but extremely delicious. I could really warm up about three in one sitting (I don't, but I could, it's that good). The rice is fluffy and delicious with spinach mixed right in. The sauce is also so good. This is a MUST TRY! In fact, Fresh and Easy single dinners are my favorite overall. They definitely have great flavorful choices including Turkey with Cranberry Stuffing, Chile Ancho Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken and more.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Dadchelor Parties are a Thing?


In my Mom's generation women gathered to celebrate a new baby with baby showers. They were all women events with food, games and gifts. I remember going to one when my Mom was pregnant with my youngest sister. All the ladies from her work gathered to celebrate. My generation saw the co-ed baby shower. For both of our kids my family hosted a big co-ed party complete with games for the ladies, guys and kids. There was food and beer and we even had a poker tournament at one. My husband and I both got to open gifts and celebrate with our loved ones.

The other day I heard the term "Dadchelor Party" for the first time. Yes it is exactly as it sounds, a party for a new Dad and his guys. A sort of last hurrah before their lives are changed forever. A way to say goodbye to their carefree, baby-free days.

There are many different ways to celebrate a Dadchelor Party. Some are a good ol' fashioned poker night. The Beer and Diaper Party is also popular. But how far do these parties go? As far as a bachelor party?

These days having a baby means showing up to 3 different parties; a gender reveal party, a baby shower and now a Dadchelor party. Oh and don't forget the Babymoon!

Are Dadchelor Parties a good idea, or are they just an excuse to get drunk with your friends? 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Boosting Your Happiness (and zapping happiness busters)!


Here are a few ways to boost happiness levels:

1. Exercise: natural endorphins released in this simple and underutilized habit make happiness levels shoot through the roof. It also helps individuals manage stress levels, simultaneously zapping another happiness buster. Personally, exercise works wonders for my state of mind. When I'm engaged in a regular exercise regime my mood is immediately boosted.

2. Avoid negative influences: this can be so underrated but critical. Bad news, relationships and environments all eat away at a person's positive outlook and gratitude for life. Don't let negative media outlets, people or environments (such as work or social circles) dictate the pace of your happiness. 

3. Never chase material happiness or outward approval: we hear it all the time: "things don't make us happier" however many of us still chase material items and typically because of what others will think. A long time ago I let go of chasing designer duds and lifestyle items that    "defined" outward happiness. For instance as a kid it was ingrained in my being that I should be a homeowner. I'm now a very proud (& happy) home-renter. The status of homeowner doesn't equate happiness and when I did own a home I went through some of the toughest, loneliest and most financially taxing times of my life. Truth is, I bought the place thinking "I had to", "my family and society expected us to" and even worse "IT would make me happier." That frame of thinking was so wrong. Today, I live in an amazing community. I love our environment, the schools and our home. It really doesn't matter if I own the place or not. But don't tell my momma that, she highly dislikes my take on renting versus owning property.  

4. Have enough going on? This area is a little tougher to evaluate, but not having enough productive and fulfilling life commitments could create too much spare time and lead to a routine of laziness. Many don't stop to consider how inactivity and wasted time actually can deplete happiness. I personally tend to be my happiest when I'm juggling a lot of projects and commitments. I co-run this blog, work full-time, am a wife, parent to three child and two doggies (just had to throw in the pups). I make time to workout, read, have a date night with galpals, my spouse and children. I also love coordinating family and friend gatherings. The busier my calendar (as long as I'm not stressing about the commitments), the better! Genuine productivity boosts happiness here so I remain conscious of how busy I am to ensure balance and peace of mind. 

5. Beware of false productivity: Don't be confused, channel surfing and social media chronicling, though time consuming, doesn't actually lead to boosting a person's happiness levels. In fact, social media can be known to create deep issues of depression for individuals who end up feeling "leftout" and unfulfilled after "watching" other "happy" followers lives in action, same with reality TV viewing. So beware and don't let technology or electronics bring you down. 

What causes your happiness levels to shoot through the roof?
 Leave us a comment and spread the feel good vibes :)