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.

Six ways to (realistically) detox after the holidays.

Six ways to (realistically) detox after the holidays.

 Detoxing after the holidays. Healthy holiday food.

It’s that time of year when everyone is hitting the refresh button on their health. Too many indulgences and not nearly enough sleep, water, or exercise has left me feeling fluffy in the midsection. For many of us, we’ve been enjoying the holidays since pumpkin spiced everything hit in late September, which means it’s time for a detox.

Here are some easy and realistic ways I am detoxing after the holiday season to get myself back on track with my health. I also like to use these tips to reset myself after an “extra fun” weekend or a vacation too.

 drink water to detox after the holidays

1.     Drinking extra water. Like soooo much water that you feel insanely full. In fact, I’ll wait while you go pour yourself a glass now. It’s going to feel like a LOT at first, but you’ll get used to it quickly. It’s a simple thing to do, yet so easily forgotten. It’s a great way to flush everything out of your system, hydrate, and reset the body. Set a phone timer to help remind you to take a drink or get an app.

2.     Intermittent fasting. This means skip a meal here and there. There’s a ton of research out there to show how well this can work. Basically, fasting gives your body a break from constantly producing insulin. I generally stop eating by 6:30/7:00pm and skip breakfast. I drink black coffee or tea (no cream and sugar, that breaks the fast) and eat an early lunch/late breakfast around 11:00 to keep me full until dinner. I’ll have one small, protein-packed snack (hardboiled eggs, nuts, that sort of thing) in between to hold me over until dinner.

3.     Skipping most snacks. Snacking also means your body is constantly producing insulin because it’s constantly being fed. Also, when I snack, I always end up consuming more calories than I realize. A few years ago I did a weight loss program that had me cut out all snacks. I only ate when I was truly hungry at which point I just ate a small meal.

Paying attention to my snack consumption made me realize just how much extra I was eating! ALL. THE. TIME! For example, my husband and I used to finish dinner and, after the kids were in bed about an hour later, we’d get into some chips and salsa and graze while chatting about our day. I wasn’t hungry but it was just something to do. Skip the snacks, sister and you’ll see some dramatic results.

 Vegetarian meals help detox after the holidays

4.     Vegetarian meals. Adding several veggie-based meals to my meal plan for the week really helps me de-fluff, likely because I’m upping my veggie and fiber intake.

5.     Skip the spirits and sugar. This one is the least fun, I won’t lie, but there’s no denying that this is necessary after a holiday. Cold turkey is my favorite way to start though it’s admittedly the toughest. But after a few days, it gets a lot easier. You don’t have to do Whole30 (although I highly recommend it if you want a serious reset) but cutting out sugar and booze for a short while will undoubtedly unfluff your muff(in) top. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

 Skip the spirits and sweets to detox after the holidays

6.     Micro-exercise. Mel Robbins introduced this idea to me last week and I think it’s brilliant! Now I love a good workout to help clear my mind but working out every day has always proven to be really difficult for me. I’m sore from my workouts or just too tired. Mel suggested that in 2019 she was going to commit to daily micro-exercise. That meant doing something to move her body for five minutes every day. Whether it was squats, or sit ups, stretching, planking, lunges, whatever. If she did more, great! But otherwise she only had to move her body for five minutes in order to “check off” the box on daily exercise.

I love the idea of taking the pressure off of myself to do a “serious” workout every day.  I had been mixing in more walking and stretching in between workout days as ways to keep moving but the micro-exercising sounds perfect. Sometimes even a walk is too time consuming and in the mid-west, winter walks are usually on a treadmill (bleh). Get creative but plan ahead. Create a list of easy exercises you can do. Here are a few suggestions:

  • 5 one-minute planks

  • alternate lunges and squats

  • alternate pushups and planks

  • alternate jumping jacks and squats

  • alternate tricep dips and pushups

  • alternate crunches and side bends

  • stretch

 exercise to detox after the holidays

Are you battling a little holiday fluff or did you manage to keep things in check? What’s your favorite way to reset and get back on track? Comment below with your suggestions!

How to get from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target.

How to get from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target.

 How to get from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target.

I may have put my foot in my mouth when I claimed that “strolling the aisles of Target didn’t constitute self-care.” Or maybe I just haven’t been doing it right this whole time.  Because, recently I managed to completely turn my mood around with a quick trip to the bulls eye and an off-the-cuff mantra chanted in my car.

The weekend had been hot and rainy and basically miserable. So my husband decided that it would be a perfect weekend for a bbq. I immediately started panicking and thinking about all of the dishes that needed to be washed, things that need to be prepared/purchased/hidden/thrownaway/remodeled/reupholstered/repainted/ etc..  And that was just in the kitchen. The thought of a party immediately started causing me stress and anxiety.

I’m a great though often unwilling hostess so it was going to require a titanic-sized pregame mind shift to change my mood. And quickly.

The morning of the bbq my children and husband were driving me insane. The mood was not good. I was crabby and complaining and biting everyone’s head off. So, what did I do? I ran from my house as fast as womanly possible, grabbed my favorite new apple AirPod earbuds, and headed to the place where moms go to be understood, see friends, and restock every inch of their lives with “necessities”: Target.

 How to get from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target.

So how did I get myself from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target?

Turn on the tunes to improve your mood.

My mood was foul. I put on my “New Mood” playlist. It’s basically my Rachel Hollis’ inspired list of “songs that make me feel like a badass” and blasted them as loud as I could take it. I got out of my car and walked through the parking lot into that Target with my (totally fake) badass attitude. I walked up and down the aisles picking out hamburger buns and tortilla chips as if everything was exploding around me, like the most awesome movie you’ve ever seen, the loudest, angriest, music I could muster from my playlist, blasting in my ears.

When I got back into my car, some 20 minutes later, I realized that I was SO close to flipping my mood but it just. wasn’t. quite. there. I was so frustrated. And still irritable. The party was in a few hours and I had another 10 minutes before I was home. I didn’t want the day to be a bad one just because I was in a funk! I had to do something more.

Fake a smile. A great big, cheesy grin.

Years ago, I used to force myself to fake smile when I need a mood change. It was SUPER cheesy but I read somewhere that when your face is in the shape of a smile, it triggers something in your brain to make it think it actually IS smiling so you actually feel like you would if you were smiling. Meaning that I could basically fake myself into a good mood.

If that had worked in the past, I figured smiling AND telling myself that I was in a good mood would work even faster.

Talk to yourself.

I sat in that car in the parking lot and plastered the biggest, fakest grin I could muster on my face. And then I started to talk.

“I want to be in a better mood.”

Crickets.

“I want to be in a better MOOD.”

“I WANT to be in a BETTER MOOD! I WANT to be in a BETTER MOOD.”

That turned into, “I’m going to be in a good mood. I’m GOING to be in a good mood. I’m IN a good mood.”

“I am in a GREAT mood. I AM IN A GREAT MOOD!”

I started talking to myself. In my car. Out loud. And I talked. And talked. And I repeated the same phrases over and over again. Fake smile and all. Until my words began to change. Became more positive. Stronger. Happier. My voice got louder. Stronger. Happier. Exactly what I wanted my mood to be. I said what I wanted to feel as though I was already feeling it.

And, then, maybe because I felt so ridiculous, at which point I no longer could feel irritated and annoyed, I actually started to feel good. Better. It was working. It HAD worked. Woah.

I pulled into my driveway ten minutes later and felt different. So much better. I hadn’t really done anything that extraordinary and I hadn’t been gone all that long, but I was changed. And I felt good. And the rest of the day was a lot of fun.

It’s a amazing thing, isn’t it? Mindset. How’s your mindset today? Maybe you need a quick run to Target? You don’t even have to buy anything. Just walk those aisles like you own the B and tell me you don’t feel better.