Practicing What I Preach…

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Do you do this too?

Do you ever remind your kids (or maybe your spouse or a friend) of all the areas they need to improve — and right in the middle of all that reminding, you remember you might need to improve in some of those areas as well? 😂

Today, we were discussing the importance of love, patience, kindness, and self-control with one of my children … and afterwards, I thought it might be helpful if I focus on those things too ❤

This year, as I seek to better myself, I know a big part of that is to learn about myself … to be honest with myself about areas of necessary improvement … to be faithful in #keepingitreal

What is one way you learn more about yourself? 😊
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Psalm 139:23-24 …
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Countdown to Christmas

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Ready to celebrate the month of December and the Christmas season? We are so excited to offer our latest guide … The Overwhelmed Mom’s Guide: Countdown to Christmas. To get your free copy, make sure to sign up for our email list right here and we’ll send it right over!

Beat the Back-2-School Blues

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Can you believe it’s back-to-school time already? It seems like we’re just finally settling into our summer routine (and remembering how to slow down and relax) and now it’s time to shift gears again!

Here are a few last minute tips for surviving the change:

Bedtimes – If you’re like me, your family bedtimes may be all out of whack because well, it’s summer and, of course, the Olympics! I’m not sure who decided to put so much awesome stuff on way past even my bedtime, but it’s definitely wreaking some havoc on our nighttime routine!

So, perhaps you haven’t had a chance to start setting bedtimes back 15 minutes earlier each night for the past two weeks to gradually ease your family back into a school schedule. It’s okay — please don’t fret! Just like when daylight savings time hits, you will recover. It may take a week or two, but you will survive this.

Here’s a plan: on the day before the first day of school, try to make sure the kids get plenty of activity (swimming, playing a sport, riding bikes, whatever your kids normally do to get some of that extra energy out). Aim for an early dinner and get the kids into bed early. When they protest that they are not tired, hand them a book to read. When they complain that they are missing the Olympics, reassure them that you are recording it for them or that you’ll catch the highlights in the morning. (I think most of it is recorded anyway, right?)

After a little bit, even if they’re still reading happily, turn the lights out at a reasonable hour. It will be tough, but you will survive this. (Have I mentioned that already? I must need the reminder 🙂 )

Prep – Now that the kids are in bed, try to get as much done as you can before the morning. Pack lunches; get backpacks ready; have clothes all set out; perhaps put an encouraging note in a bag or lunch sack for them to find; and decide on breakfast. Speaking of breakfast…

Get them excited to wake up – Plan a fun breakfast that will motivate them to get moving on this challenging day. Nothing too involved or complicated, but choose a meal that will make them smile.

Keep your expectations low – I used to be a photographer, so having a family picture on the first day of school is really important to me. But I’ve learned (the hard way!) to be flexible. Maybe instead of trying to get the whole family and the dog in the photo, I’ll be happy with an individual shot of each kid or a group shot in the afternoon when they return from school. Have an idea of what you want, but also keep some back-up ideas in mind. Be flexible. (Did I mention that already?)

Restart the day if necessary – Perhaps you decided to completely disregard the tip above and were determined to get that perfect family picture (been there, done that). If that scenario happened to end in a puddle of tears from half the family, all is not lost. Take a deep breath, hug your kids, and suggest that you restart the day. No big deal, right? 🙂

Leave earlier than you think is necessary  – No explanation needed. Everything takes longer than you think!

Plan a little something for the afternoon – It doesn’t need to be a big deal at all, but let the kids know there is something for them to look forward to after school — so they can think about if they need to during the day. Maybe it’s getting them a little treat from the drive-thru on the way home or playing board games first thing before they even have to look at homework or sort through their papers.

Be their calm – When you get to school, try to just smile, hug, and take a few low-pressure pics if it’s important to you. Nothing is a big deal — everything is going to be great. Remind them of the tip above before you head out and that you will see them again oh-so-soon as you slip out the door.

You did it! Now go cry/relax/celebrate 🙂

Marvelous (Summer) Mondays

Mondays and I haven’t always had the best relationship. In fact (if I’m being completely honest), during the school year, I flat out dread them.

But Mondays have a new life during the summer. I’ve decided to take them over and remake them into days that I actually look forward to…and it’s working!

On Mondays during the summer, I try not to schedule anything. No errands or outside items on our agenda. Instead, I am relaxed with waking up times and meal times and reading times. It’s all very go-with-the-flow.

We use Mondays to talk about the week ahead – what we want to work on, what we have going on, and what we want to take on. We pick something from our bucket list. We talk about our goals. We decide what books we want to read.

Then we go swimming. Or eat a popsicle. Or watch a Rangers game. We just relax and enjoy summer.

Mondays have become our day – and I’m loving them!

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Summer Starts with the Unexpected!

So our first official week of summer did not turn out exactly as I expected.

You’d think I would’ve learned by now to expect the unexpected, but even I wasn’t prepared when my daughter (who hasn’t wanted to do any type of summer camp for the past three years) decided she just had to try a tennis camp some of her friends were doing — and of course it happened to be during the first week of summer.

I wanted to say no, I really did…in fact, I almost did say no. But for a laundry list of reasons, we decided to make it happen.

Of course, the camp was right in the middle of the afternoon (during my the little guy’s nap time) so that made it challenging on some days…but my parents were in town, so that helped out a lot.

Speaking of visitors, my sweet sister and her three boys came into town at the end of week when their school let out. So we had a house full of kids and a hectic schedule — not quite the completely relaxing first week I had envisioned, but probably even better! We made some wonderful memories (including a fun afternoon at a classic arcade) which I wouldn’t trade for anything.

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This week, we’re finally having that “do nothing” week I imagined (sort of). The kids still have commitments but we definitely have some margin in our days — and we’ve been forced to spend more time at home since my husband’s car just unexpectedly stopped working.

Oh, well. Maybe one day I’ll learn to expect the unexpected 🙂

Our Summer Party (almost) Failed

So we had our big welcome to summer celebration and it was almost an epic fail.

Things started off pretty well…my plan was to do a little something that I knew each kid would enjoy.

My daughter is a big lover of baking and s’mores, so instead of just making the traditional favorites, I found a new recipe for s’mores fudge bars. My daughter loved making these with me and her Nana — and we all loved eating them. Win!

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Next, my middle son is currently focused on creating a new breed of super heroes that he plans to sell to DC Comics or Marvel (may the highest bidder win!). He is always asking us to draw one of his newest creations and for this part of our party, I let him give us all assignments on what to draw. He was ecstatic. Score!

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Now comes the part that did not go according to plan. For the main part of our celebration, I wanted to take the kids and all the grandparents to Studio Movie Grill for dinner and a viewing of Angry Birds.

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All was proceeding nicely until the previews started — while I knew my toddler would love Angry Birds, I forgot that I have no control over what they show before the movie.

Let’s just say he was NOT pleased with the preview choices and before his meal came out, he demanded rather loudly: “I want to go HOME!”

I’m not too proud to admit I quickly pushed my little buzzer and asked them to bring out the dessert immediately. That kept him happy for a few minutes, but once the ice cream was gone, he looked at me and said, “I want to go home.”

So, my dad and I and my little guy ended up walking around a nearby grocery store while the rest of our crew finished the movie.

It wasn’t ideal but I checked an errand off my to do list and my mom and the big kids loved Angry Birds. So there you go.

We wrapped up the evening by letting my oldest son pick between a family basketball game and swimming. He shocked me by picking swimming — but it was the perfect ending to an almost-perfect day 🙂

Here are a couple of things I learned for next year:

– Keep as much as possible a surprise for a couple of reasons. One, everything is just a little bit more fun and exciting if it’s a surprise. Two, if you don’t tell the kids your plans beforehand, they won’t have time to try to change/add to or complain about your ideas. Lesson learned the hard way!

– In years past, I tried to make everyone do everything together, but it worked well this time to just do the baking part with my mom and daughter and let the boys do the taste testing. Everyone was happy!

– Always remember to go with the flow! If something’s not working, try something else. My little guy had a lot of fun helping me look for fruit and birthday cards at the store, even though that wasn’t part of the original plan 🙂

Please share if you’ve had a welcome to summer celebration!

In his eyes…

Love this boy.

The other morning, as we were all eating breakfast, I noticed that Good Morning America was about to make a big announcement.

“Look,” I said to no one in particular, “they’re about to announce the most beautiful woman in the world.”

My nine year old son looked at me, with my crazy bedhead hair and bags under my eyes, and said with all seriousness: “Hey Mom, you might win!”

And he wasn’t joking.

I smiled (and maybe teared up a little) and replied: “No, buddy, I don’t think so…”

He just shrugged. “Well, did you enter? If so, you just might win…”

And he wasn’t joking.

Thankful that our children think we’re beautiful, crazy bedhead and all 🙂

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5 Secrets to a Great Date Night

So a crazy thing happened this week. My husband needed to attend a work meeting in New York City, and (since our last trip together was about 7 years ago), he asked me if I wanted to join him!

Of course, I immediately started to think through the details. We would leave on a Monday and return on a Tuesday night. It would be super quick…and the kids had a full schedule on Monday afternoon and evening…and —

The list went on and on, so my first instinct was to say no.

There was just too much going on and it would be a challenge to try and coordinate it all.  But then, after consulting with a few friends and family members, they encouraged me to go for it…and so I did…and in doing so, I followed the first secret to a great date night: I put it on the calendar!

Decide on what you want to do (dinner, a movie, both?) and when you want to do it — and then go ahead and pencil it in. No, scratch that — write it in permanent marker! Then, defend that date with everything that is within you. Make it a priority — use carpool support or grandparent babysitting if you need to. Just set it in stone and make it happen!

Now, once you get on the date, it’s time for secrets #2 and #3 (they kind of go hand in hand): don’t expect too much…and let it go. And by this I mean don’t try to do too much and don’t fret if things don’t go quite as planned.

Go ahead and acknowledge the fact that some things are going to go wrong on your date night. You might get lost and arrive late for the movie. Or the food might not be as good as you had hoped. But it’s okay! You are together!

Nothing that happens should cause you to stress too much — just the fact that you are getting some alone time with your spouse should be the prize…anything else that goes right on your date night should be a bonus.

When you do get disappointed or things don’t go as planned, just “roll with the punches” as my mom would say.

For example, I was super excited about getting to go to a play when we were in New York City for our 36 hour date night. But, I quickly learned that on Monday nights, Broadway goes “dark” and most plays are not available to see.

That was a big disappointment for me…this was literally probably my one chance in a decade to get to check out the theater scene — but I had to just get over it — there was plenty of other things to do. (And my husband was secretly thrilled.)

Which leads me to secret #4: enjoy the small things. One of my very favorite parts of our trip happened almost by accident on Tuesday morning. After a delicious breakfast at a neat little place recommended by a friend, we made the spontaneous decision to walk over to Central Park. We almost didn’t go because we really didn’t have much time, but we were so glad that we did.

The park was pretty empty and quiet and peaceful, and even though we only had about 15 minutes to walk around, it was incredibly beautiful and the weather was perfect and so we soaked up every second of it.

Okay, the final little secret: you don’t have to do something new to have an adventure. Being in New York City, we felt a bit compelled to try out a new restaurant for our one big dinner of the trip. But then, we decided that we would go to the place that we knew would make us happy, and we ended up eating at the Olive Garden in the middle of Times Square. It was the perfect combination: our favorite comfort food with an amazing view of the city.

New and exciting? Maybe not. But did we have our own fun (yet predictable) adventure? Absolutely. And we didn’t regret one bit of it (especially dessert)…

So there you have it…5 little secrets to have a great date night. I know all my dates won’t get to be in New York City (maybe in another decade or so?), but following these simple secrets, we can have a great time anywhere we go!

#BestThanksgivingYet

I feel silly (and maybe a little embarrassed) to admit this, but Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday. Maybe it’s because I am not a big fan of turkey and dressing…or maybe it’s because, growing up, Thanksgiving was the last big holiday standing between us and Christmas.

Whatever the cause, I just have never really gotten into this holiday, but I’ve finally decided that enough is enough! This is a holiday rooted in such a noble cause (giving thanks for all that we have), and it’s time for our family to make the most of it. Our goal: to have the best Thanksgiving yet this year.

This month, I am going to document our journey as we prepare for this epic celebration – from the menu to the décor to the traditions I plan to begin.

Please be warned: as a novice in the kitchen, the thought of actually preparing this whole meal on my own is incredibly intimidating, so I know that will be a huge hurdle to overcome.

Also, I struggle with being “crafty” and my husband has already set our decorating budget at a whopping “nada” – so décor will be a challenge as well.

Now, traditions and making memories are my soft spot, so I know that will be fun – but the pressure to select the activities that will be both memorable and meaningful is high, and I can bet that choosing the best option will prove to be difficult.

So there you have it – my November goal of celebrating the best Thanksgiving yet. It won’t be easy, but it’s going to be worth it!

And if you would like to share any tips on how you make Thanksgiving awesome, I would LOVE to hear them!

thanksgivingFamily fun outside in the yard is a must for any holiday! 

Duchess Kate’s Lastest Fashion Choices — and how we can’t please everyone!

This morning, I was skimming through the latest news headlines on Facebook (my trusted source for up to the minute news), when I came across a shocker: Duchess Kate’s latest gown choice was not a favorite amongst some critics. I’ll admit, I was intrigued and clicked on the article to read more. (Because, in my opinion she is so classy and elegant, how could she ever go wrong?)

Apparently, several people were criticizing the latest outfit that she donned for a movie premiere – the dress wasn’t form-fitting enough, her up-do hairstyle was not age appropriate (hey, does my ponytail count as an up-do, because I did that every day for at least a year), and the light blue color of her dress didn’t pop enough.

When I clicked on the comments that people had left about the article, the general consensus was (similar to mine) much more positive: she looked beautiful and the media just needs to relax a bit.

And then it made me think about a mom’s life and how it is so true that you just can’t please everyone, all the time, no matter how hard you try…no matter if you’re the beautiful Duchess Kate who probably has to think non-stop about her public appearances – or a mom who’s trying to decide if she should let her child join a sports team that practices every week on a heavy homework night.

Moms have to make all kinds of choices every day – and they range from pretty minor (what in the world can I cook for dinner that will make 4 picky kids happy?) to pretty major (does this virus seem like a 24 hour thing or something more serious?). Lots of decisions – lots of people to please.

So, what’s a lady to do? First, we have to realize that no one is perfect. If people will criticize Kate’s outfits, they will criticize anything! So take the weight of perfection right off your shoulders.

Second, I’m hoping Kate doesn’t spend another moment worrying about her critics. We all know she’s doing her best…and come to think of it, so am I. And I bet you are, too. We have to remember that we’re not in it to please this world…everyone might not approve – some people may criticize. But we just need to know in our heart that we are making the best choices for our family (whether they’re as talked about as Kate’s last fashion appearance or not!).

Here are a couple of my own fashion choices from this summer – I tried to get out of my comfort zone and challenged myself to wear a dress every day for 30 days. Let me tell you, all of my selections did not get rave reviews by my little critics 🙂 More on that later…