Sex as self-care. Five easy steps to feeling good.

Sex as self-care. Five easy steps to feeling good.

Guest Post by Carrie Koziol, Physical Therapist and Women’s Health Professional
with Pilates by Carrie. 


Couple in bed kissing

Sex As Self-Care? Buckle up!

Rarely do my girlfriends and I say phrases like “I got to have sex last night” or “I’m hoping to get lucky later on.”

On the contrary, we often joke that we “took one for the team” or some other phrase to indicate that we did a favor for our partners. This couldn’t be more true than in those tender post-baby months where any of us would have easily traded sex for 5 extra minutes of sleep or a hot shower. But sometimes those postpartum habits can spill over into the months (and maybe years) that follow, leaving our partners and ourselves feeling a little……disconnected.

So how can we jump start our sex life if it’s become stalled? Below I’ve outlined a few key steps. Most can be altered slightly to apply to heterosexual couples, same sex couples, those single ladies who shouldn’t miss out on the fun just because they don’t have a partner, and everyone in between!

Change your perspective, and start seeing sex as a gift to yourself.sex as selfcare

Women who masturbated in an MRI machine (seriously, all props to the women that got off in that sterile tube while a bunch of scientists examined their brain waves), demonstrated that from first touch to ecstasy, the female brain lights up like the headlights on a Monster truck at night. But what is more interesting to me is what happens post-orgasm and has been described as “lights-out” in the brain. I don’t know about you, but my brain is a tangled web of constant thoughts and over-thoughts.

Even as I sit here at the café typing this out, I’ve had a million thoughts completely un-related to the task at hand: do I have a red onion at home for the salad I want to make tomorrow, these high-waisted jeans are great for keeping my belly at bay but they sure are digging in, did I let the dog out before I left, when will I pack for that trip we’re taking in 2 days, I wonder what that guy over there is working on, I wonder if anyone can see what I’m working on (gasp!), what if I’m attacked on the way to my car by someone who thinks I’m a sex-hungry prostitute. Sigh.

Orgasm is like taking an elicit drug to melt your mind without the horrible side effects. Maybe you can’t wrap that one up, but I think a quiet brain is one of the best gifts we ladies can offer ourselves!

Get connected (in and out of the bedroom).

Couple in bed kissing

Women crave intimacy before sex and if you’re feeling disconnected from your partner, making the leap from the breakfast table to the bedroom can seem like an Olympic event. So find ways to connect!!! If you’ve got a free evening, check out this awesome idea about planning a “first” date.

If you’re running short on time, take a trip down memory lane. Talk about the moment you first met, your first date, what originally attracted you to each other, your first kiss. Give each other massages, hold hands, get close! If your partner is rolling their eyes, let them know what you’re up to. Explain that women sometimes need some deposits into their intimacy bank before they want to cash it in for sex.

Learn your own sexual accelerators and brakes.

Emily Nagoski, in her amazing book Come As You Are explains that sexual accelerators are sexually relevant stimuli (things you touch, taste, smell, hear, see) in your environment that tell your brain to tell your genitals to turn ON. Sexual brakes work the same but instead tell your genitals to turn OFF, and these two systems are at work in your subconscious scanning your environment for clues to see if this is a “sexy time.”

What gets your motor running? A juicy romance novel, silk sheets, getting away (hotel, bed and breakfast, etc), having your partner help with chores, cologne, a clean bedroom, candles, wine? What hits your brakes? Sounds from the kids outside your door (yup!), a long list of things to do around the house, bad breath or body odor, a messy bedroom? It is your job to find ways to hit your accelerator and limit your brakes.

Sadly most partners haven’t found ways to initiate sex in ways that get us revved up. Alternatively, some of us may be living with the parking brake on. Consider shifting into neutral so should our accelerators be pressed, we may be nudged in the right direction (see Step 5 below!)

Woman in bed

Understand a woman’s lack of desire at the beginning of a sexual encounter.

Have you ever been in a situation with a loving partner, where you really weren’t in the mood for sex at the start? Sure maybe you were open to the idea but perhaps you were feeling just “meh” about it. Dr. Rosemary Basson analyzes the circular sexual response cycle and explains that with the appropriate accelerators and context, a woman might become aroused enough to experience sexual desire. Another example of shifting into the “neutral” zone to see where it takes you. This could be your one-way ticket to “O” town!

Have fun!!!

Try something new, light a candle, use a massage oil, update your bedroom attire, role play. I consulted with sex therapists and coaches to determine a tangible and inexpensive way to help take couples from zeros to heroes and to help them communicate and connect in a playful way.

Enter Chalk Talk! Chalk Talk is a double sided chalk board that allows couples to be more creative when initiating sex. When one partner is interested in sex, they will write something on the chalkboard (it could be a code word, a compliment, a date night itinerary) and leave it in a secret spot for their potential lover to see. This allows the non-initiator to make mental and physical plans to make it happen or to flip the chalkboard over and make a request of their own (please help with the dishes, only if you let me sleep in, …..but dinner first) or to kindly set a date in the future.

The Chalk Talk package comes with two surveys to fill out as a couple so you can learn (or re-learn) intimate details about you and your partner’s accelerators, brakes, and sexual preferences in a fun, nonthreatening way.

Navigating a sexual relationship whether it is a new street, a well-loved dirt road, or a recently re-surfaced highway is sure to present with some twists and turns. But you’ve got a beautiful “vehicle” and I promise the destination is worth the journey. If you’re ready, it’s the pedal on the right!

Why I want to leave my kids’ Easter Baskets empty this year.

Why I want to leave my kids’ Easter Baskets empty this year.

Easter on mom calendar, easter basketsOk ok, I will admit, this advice is a bit of a buzz kill. But I just cannot bear the thought of more holiday “stuff” thrown about the floor of my house.

Every holiday, all the cute holiday “stuff” appears at every. single. store. and all the catalogs that arrive in my mailbox. I KNOW that those things doesn’t matter and that I should be creating memories and traditions and blah blah blah, but try explaining that to a five-year-old. I want to make the holidays fun and memorable for my kids but, let’s face it, they really just care about STUFF.

How can we be Marie Kondo-ing our houses AND still creating Instagram flat lay-worthy baskets that look like they came straight out of the Pottery Barn catalog? Pick a lane, Susan, I can’t keep up!

I did actually bite the bullet this year and bought the kids some “nicer” Easter baskets. Eh hem. Yes, from Pottery Barn. They are adorable, I will admit. But, I’m kicking myself now because I don’t actually want to fill these baskets with anything.

I’m seriously considering pulling the Jesus card and telling the kids that their baskets are empty because Jesus’ tomb was empty so… “HAPPY EASTER!! Now go clean up your Legos.”

But I would prefer it if my kids’s inevitable future therapy sessions weren’t solely about how disappointing their holiday experiences were in childhood so, I’m finding some middle ground.

My solution? Gifting a combination of practical items with fun things that can be thrown away without a second thought.

Easter bunny with candy

6 Things I Guess I’d Put Into an Easter Basket.

  1. New sneakers or rain boots (and maybe both because Spring may as well be renamed “Mud Season” in the Midwest). I am a big fan of Plae for when I want to buy quality and Target’s Cat & Jack line for when I don’t. Also London Littles (a business run by an awesome mama!) are very cute and don’t seem to stain as easily as other brands I’ve purchased. Although why I buy anything but black/navy shoes for little boys who like mud, I’m not sure.
  2. Spring pajamas (shorter sleeves, brighter prints, etc.). Some of my favorites are from Primary and Hanna Anderson (matching jammies are no longer just for Christmas!).
  3. Summer baseball caps. Functional and fashionable. Also, where the eff did all the hats from last summer go? I swear that I packed them away somewhere really smart…
  4. Plastic eggs filled with: quarters, a few jelly beans, Hershey kisses, mentos, tic tacs (no joke), rocks, and random legos I picked up off the ground. Moms of young kids, here’s a tip: put any food that you want your kids to eat into a plastic egg at dinner time. You will be SHOCKED at what they will eat when it comes from a plastic egg.
  5. Books. My oldest is full on reading (!! What?!? ) and really enjoying me reading longer books to him, which is very exciting and much less boring at bedtime. Both of my boys love Captain Underpants books and the like and, while I don’t always love the attitude or snarkiness, it keeps them interested so I’m game.
  6. Trash-able nick-nacks from the Target Dollar Section, Hobby Lobby, or Michaels. Sometimes I get caught up in purging toys and kid crap because I am hung up on the money that I spent. To remedy this, I (try) to buy less for the kids and then keep it cheap. Not EVERYTHING, but particularly when it comes to holiday stuff.  So I buy things I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to throw away or that would get used up after one use: stickers, play doh, slime, (SIMPLE) craft projects, a little candy, etc.. It makes life so much easier when you inevitably step on a plastic easter bunny sometime next week to just chuck it. It’s also really satisfying.

While you might want to just skip the whole Easter Basket thing, with a little thought, you can still make your kids super excited and fill it with things your kids already need or you were going to buy, and things you can easily get rid of. Throw in a chocolate bunny or Cadbury egg for good measure (c’mon, I’m not that big of an a-hole as to not include a little candy) and you’re basically “Mother of the Year.”

You’re welcome. And Happy Easter.

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Family Travel Organization Tips

The Best Family Travel Organization Tips

Guest Post by Catherine Gibel, Professional Organizer with Less is More Organizing Services Naperville

I got it from my maman. My love for travel and packing prowess that is. Every summer for fifteen years, we traveled home to Québec for a month. Not only did she pack for a family of four, she then drove 24 hours over three days alone with three kids. Not for the faint of heart. I paid attention though and picked up some invaluable travel tips and tricks that I now use and share with you.

Map out your travel documents

Maman had a handwritten list but I use Evernote. If you’re not already using this app, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a team favorite. In Evernote, you can create a digital trip notebook with “before we leave” and “packing” checklists. If you travel to the same destination every year like we did, you can save your checklists. It’s such a time saver! Using a checklist will ensure that you pack everything you and your family need and avoid last minute, hurried overpacking.

In your trip notebook, save copies of your IDs, birth certificates, passports, visas, and other necessary travel documents just in case these items get misplaced or stolen. You can scan these documents using Evernote. Also, if you’re using travel magazines or guidebooks, scan the pages, save them in your trip notebook, and spare yourself the bulk in your carry on!

Pack it Right, Pack it Light

When traveling, less is more.

Create a packing zone. A corner of your bedroom is perfect. As you make purchases, wash clothes that you wish to pack, come across an item you need to bring, add it to the packing zone. This makes moving from the “list” to “packing” easier and less time consuming.

Select clothing. Check the weather and keep activities in mind when selecting outfits for you and your family. Avoid packing head to toe looks for every day. Select versatile pieces that can be used in 2-3 different outfits. For kids, selecting tops and bottoms in basic colors is best. This is not the time for fancy outfits. Keep it simple.

For kids, pack by outfit. Put the whole outfit in a gallon size ziplock bag. You can then put the dirty outfit in the ziplock bag after its been worn. Pack extra outfits this way too.

Packing cubes. I finally sold my maman on these. She just packed for a six week trip to Australia and says she’s never looking back. These are so versatile and help keep your suitcase neat and tidy. You can use them to corral smaller items like undergarments, socks, and swimsuits. If you’re sharing one big suitcase, assign each family member a color for quick and easy identification. You can just throw the cube in a drawer when you get to your destination.

Roll, don’t fold. If you roll your clothes, you can fit eight days worth of tops and bottoms in a large packing cube.

Pack shoes first. Maximize space by packing socks inside the shoes. This will also help the shoes hold their shape. Wear your bulkiest pair of shoes in the car or on the plane.

If you and your kids have undergarments, socks or clothes that have seen better days or are almost outgrown, pack them and discard them on the trip. This will create space for souvenirs.

Double check what amenities your hotel or rental offer. You can avoid a lot of bulk by not packing a hair dryer. The same is true for robes and beach towels. Always pack travel size toiletries.

Kids Are a Trip

Travel insurance. You think it’s an annoying, unnecessary expense until you take your first trip with a child. Children are illness and accident prone. Play it safe.

Book accommodations with separate sleeping areas when possible. You’ll pay more for this convenience but a good night’s sleep is a key ingredient to a happy, relaxing family trip.

Snacks. Pack more than you think you’ll need. No one likes a “hangry” toddler or adult for that matter.

Load up the tablet. This is a good time to download new activities, games, and movies.

Pack a few new, small toys. Hit up the Target dollar spot for coloring books, stickers, and little toy cars, planes, and trucks. It’s fun for kids to open something new on the plane or in the car.

The big takeaway? Don’t wait until the last minute! A little planning will go a long way to ensuring that you and your family start and end your vacation on a fun, relaxed note. Happy travels!

Dress to impress (yourself). Five must-have pieces for a mom uniform.

Dress to impress (yourself). Five must-have pieces for a mom uniform.

As a kid, I’m not sure how I would have felt about having to wear a uniform to school. On one hand, it seems frustrating that you can’t wear whatever I want. On the other hand, a uniform would have taken a lot of stress off of my plate and prevented me from making some awesome fashion mistakes.

Now, decades later, I love applying the idea of a uniform to my daily wardrobe. Of course, I have more than these items in my closet, but these pieces are part of my daily uniform and are the basic staples I reach for almost every day.

Mom Must Have #1: Leggings or skinny jeans.

Ok these are a staple for any outfit, especially during the colder months. My favorites leggings are the Lululemon Align Pant or, for something a little fancier, the Spanx leggings in basically any of their styles. Trust me, they are worth the money. Thick fabric, no pilling, they keep everything tucked in and tight. No muffin top. Worth every penny.

 Must have mom uniform skinny jeans

As for jeans, styles may change every other year but I think one of the best things you can do for yourself is to find a classic style that really works for your body type stick to it as much as possible. In my case, that’s skinny jeans.

I’m tall and have zero curves which means no waist so anything other than a skinny pant look extra wide. Skinny jeans keep my outfit in proportion (as well as keep my portions in proportion, if I’m honest). So bootcut or straight legs and I are never going to be friends.

Some of my favorite brands of skinny jeans are Hudson’s High Waisted Barbara style (investment) and Articles of Society (budget friendly), both available at my fave, Evereve.

Mom Must Have #2: Casual day dress.

I think a day dress is the easiest way to look put together and still feel super comfy. What do I mean by “day dress?” A dress made of a casual, comfortable material like jersey or sweatshirt, that allows you to move freely and go about your day. It can be dressed up and down with accessories, a jacket, or shoes.

 must have mom uniform day dress

Some of my current favorites are from Athleta and Lululemon but I’ve also picked up some great ones at Sierra Trading Post, TJ Maxx and Old Navy. Look for looser fitting styles that are comfortable but also give you a little bit of shape when you want it. Dresses act as a great base layer and look cute topped with scarves too. During winter months, I always pair them with leggings and boots and often… number three…

Mom Must Have #3: A great jacket or sweater.

You really need a few jackets in your closet but, at minimum, get a great jean jacket or neutral colored blazer. Stay away from black unless you want to look like you’re headed to a funeral or court (which is basically the same thing). I have an awesome velvet blazer from Banana Republic circa, I swear, 2001, that I simply cannot part with, that is still a classic. I’ve found that if I roll the sleeves, I don’t have to worry about it looking “too small” (as though it were circa 2001) or too uptight, as though I were about to walk into a deposition. Also it helps hid the button I lost in 2014.

This beauty below? A new favorite from Evereve. Clearly I’m partial to greens. And camo. And, well, Evereve.

 must have mom uniform jacket

Mom Must Have #4: Slip on shoes.

This started out as a “survival item” for me as it allowed me to leave the house as quickly as possible after finally getting my insanely slow-moving children out the door. Warm weather months were my favorite because I could also slip into a pair of my favorite flats like Rothys (yes, they are as amazing as the Facebook ad makes them look!). But over the years I added a collection of low-heeled booties and most recently, slip on sneakers. The J Slides phenomenon was a little lost on me. Until I tried on a pair. Holy eff, were these comfy. And SO. DANG. CUTE. I immediately bought a pair and then two knock off pairs to wear around my house.

 Must have mom uniform slip on shoes

Mom Must Have #5: An “everything bag” organized with mini bags.

We could talk for days about the best mom bags out there (actually, I may need some of my favorite local fashion bloggers to guest write a post about their favorites!) but the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to carry bags INSIDE of your bags to help you organize everything. I keep a few on hand and it makes switch my bags so much easier.

I have a small bag that contains lip gloss, powder, hair ties, a mini lotion, a tampon and a few other cosmetic necessities. Another bag contains pens, a charging cable, and a small battery pack. A third contains child-related items like a mini-pack of wet wipes, some Benedryl, and bandaids. These can come and go from my bags depending on where I’m going for the day. That way, the pockets inside of my purse don’t turn into junk drawers.

 Must have mom uniform bag

And there you have it. My five current MUST HAVE pieces in my wardrobe that make getting dressed so much easier.

Do you have a uniform? What are your “must have” pieces in your closet?

Face your fears to get over them.

Face your fears to get over them.

The title of my memoir, and tombstone, will one day read: “You were a lot nicer than everyone thought.”

I can’t tell you how many times someone tells me that after we become friends.

I’m not really offended by this anymore. It’s true, I suppose. I AM a nice person, quite a wonderful person actually, but there are definitely a few layers that you have to peel back to get to the real me.

And more often than not, it’s me that’s standing squarely in the way.

 Woman with anxiety sitting on chair

This lovely photo was taken last summer during a fun weekend for creative entrepreneurs. It was full of inspirational women, informative workshops and delicious food. One of the best parts was that I got to experience a DREAM destination: Camp Wandawega in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. THE Mindy Segal of Chicago’s Hot Chocolate fame made us dessert and shot the shit with us about creativity and making mistakes. Dream. Weekend.

And, side note, I’ve been obsessed with Camp Wandawega and it’s story and the incredible owners since I “discovered” it on Instagram or some featured Anthropologie or Crate and Barrel branding shoot, I’m not even sure where. I never even went to camp as a kid but something about this idyllic, back-to-basics place brought me such a sense of peace and calm. The place was heavenly and it’s where my dream for Renewing Mom Camp was born (and will one day come to fruition, damnit!). But that’s another post…

Anyway, while the event was near perfect, for whatever reason, actually experiencing it was quite different. Looking at this photo, I feel a bit of sadness about that otherwise wonderful weekend, because I didn’t really connect with the group as much as I had wanted.

As an introvert, I know that I need time alone to recharge. But this was something entirely different.

It had been a hot and sticky weekend of great workshops, inspiration and networking. At one point, during a break, the group was cooling off with a swim in the lake. Most of the women from camp, about thirty of us, gathered in the water and on the dock, talking, getting to know each other. Laughing. I didn’t join them.

Instead I sat in this chair. Paralyzed with fear and anxiety. About what, exactly, I couldn’t tell you. I pretended to work on my laptop and wrote in a journal to appear busy. I didn’t want anyone to know how I actually felt: lonely, like a little girl on the playground of a new school. I had no idea how to insert myself into a group that seemed to gel and spontaneously become “best friends.” I know that probably wasn’t true, but that’s the story I told myself. “Everyone had clicked and connected. Everyone by me.”

“Go down there!” I commanded myself. “If for no other reason than the fact that you are melting!”

But I sat glued to that chair. And I didn’t move. I hid my red, raw, teary eyes behind huge sunglasses. I sat and watched. Feeling alone and unremarkable, unworthy of knowing.

What. The. Fuck. Where did this awful, limiting, and totally untrue belief come from? And why? Where was the confident woman from just a few days, even hours earlier, that was so excited to be attending that incredible event? To experience the dream venue she had seen in magazines, inspired to shared her vision for a new business and to learn from other creatives?

I wish I could say that I got up from that chair and joined the group, ending the weekend with new friends, great connections and remarkable memories. Instead, I look at this photo sadly and really just want a do-over. Because I didn’t get up. I sat in that chair, literally and figuratively, for the rest of the weekend.

 Thinking woman
I try not to be a Monday-morning-quarterback and dwell too much about what I could have and should have done differently. But I try to learn from experiences. Because you don’t get any do-overs.

There’s no where to go but forward. Straight into it. And then through it.

I don’t know if it would have worked but I sure could have leaned into a little more, instead of hiding and waiting for the fear to pass. Because it never did. It never will.

What could I have done? I could have walked down to the water and sat on the dock with the group. I could have admitted to one of the women that I felt a tinge of overwhelm by everyone’s amazing business success. I could have asked more questions of the women sitting next to me to get to know them better.

On their own, none of those things seems that scary when I think about it like that. Yet they would have helped me face my fears head on and begin to move past them.

Facing fears doesn’t require cannonballing yourself into the lake. But you can sit a little closer to the water. Even dip your toe in a little bit.

Sometimes, probably more often than you might like to admit, you’re standing in your own way. So step aside, and get out of the way, so you can be on your way.