Let’s Make a Plan

Standard

flowers-desk-office-vintage

*Post contains affiliate links.

I’m a planner by nature. With both of my pregnancies, I found out if I was having a boy or girl the very first moment I could. How else was I supposed to decorate the nursery and know if I could use the same clothes with baby #2 as I did with baby #1. Spoiler alert – even with two girls I couldn’t really use a lot of the same clothes. Darn them being born in different seasons and growing at different rates!

I was also the person who would line-up an hour ahead of time outside of my college professor’s office to see my final grade. Yes folks – I am old and was in college before everything was online and you could know your grade almost instantly from anywhere.

Technology has clearly made its way into my life. I now own an iPhone, and have used Outlook and Google calendar. However, I feel a sense of calm when I have everything written down. You read that right…everything written down. As in pen to paper. Nothing will replace a good old fashioned paper planner tucked away in my bag and a calendar pinned up on the wall in my kitchen.

Last year when my older daughter made the jump from my office’s onsite daycare and kindergarten to first grade at our local public school, I was completely overwhelmed. How many holidays, early dismissals and institute days can there possible be? The answer is approximately a zillion. Oh, and throw in dance class, gymnastics, Brownies, play dates and a dozen other activities and I am basically toast.

CalendarFriends recommended apps and online tools to help keep everyone’s schedule straight. I gave them all a whirl, but kept coming back to my trusted old planner. I also ordered a large wall calendar that I posted in my kitchen and it has been my savior.

My classic Type A planning also spills over into research and cost comparisons. After researching tons of calendar systems, I found the Amy Knapp Big Grid Wall Calendar on Amazon. Every single appointment/activity/meeting is documented on that calendar. All anyone in my household has to do is glance at the calendar to know what the week or month ahead holds. Even better, the calendar is under $10. Did I mention it also comes with fun stickers to highlight certain dates?

Planner

I also can’t resist a sparkly planner that is smaller than an average notebook, but larger than a typical pocket calendar. I bought this one in gold, but would have gotten the turquoise if it had been available when I was shopping! It’s by Eccolo. I also saw a bunch of fun planners at TJ Maxx. I’m a sucker for a good deal and anything with an inspirational or motivational saying on it.

Pink planner

In the spirit of motivational quotes, I’ll leave you with one of my new favorites from the movie Wonder. “Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”

What if Christmas Doesn’t Come from a Store?

Standard

 

IMG_0626

It looks like a glitter bomb went off in my living room. Santa’s delivery of L.O.L Dolls, Num Nums, Shopkins and everything with that flippy glitter stuff in strewn around haphazardly. The aftermath of Christmas is alive and well.

My girls are happily playing with their new toys when I asked them the million dollar question – “What was your favorite part of Christmas?”  Fully anticipating them to say the Shopkins Mall I spent an hour assembling or the coveted L.O.L. Big Surprise Ball I still can’t believe I got my hands on, I was pleasantly surprised to hear their responses. Both girls said their favorite part of Christmas was playing with their cousins, visiting Grandma and Grandpa in Michigan and taking a train downtown with their other Grandma.

IMG_0622

It was at that moment my favorite holiday quote from Dr. Seuss and The Grinch Stole Christmas popped in my mind. “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

We often get lost in the craziness of shopping for the perfect gift. Myself included. I went nuts trying to find the L.O.L. Big Surprise. Did my daughters get excited about it? Of course. But after they were done unwrapping everything they had more fun playing make-believe with each other. It reminded me of the years when my girls were tiny toddlers and had more fun playing with the boxes the gifts came in.

American Girl

Experiences and being with family are what make memories. Not toys, clothes or electronics…even though it feels like it when you’re in the thick of holiday insanity. I think of the times we went sledding, attended our town’s Christmas tree lighting, took the train downtown for brunch at the American Girl Place and the day my girls were in the annual Christmas pageant at school. Those experiences are what stand out to me about Christmas 2017.

PopcornScrolling through Facebook I loved seeing the family photos of everyone enjoying each other’s company and having fun. In this digital age, It’s a blessing to stay connected and be able to Skype or FaceTime with friends and family across the globe. We were able to watch my niece and nephew in Orlando open their presents on Christmas via FaceTime. How cool is that!

As you start to unwind from the holiday chaos, try to take some time to think about all of the memories you made over the last few months. Appreciate the giggles and even the meltdowns. Kids grow up before our eyes and the magic of the holidays won’t last forever. Keep taking those photos and documenting every moment. Besides preserving those special memories, you’ll have plenty of chances to embarrass your kids about wearing matching pajamas when they’re older.

 

Kindness Does NOT = Weakness

Standard

Kindness

In fifth grade, a “friend” asked me to help pass out her birthday invitations at recess. I was excited to help, that was until I handed out the last invitation and realized there wasn’t one for me. To say I was crushed would be an understatement.

I went home sobbing to my mom and was surprised when she told me to get my coat because we were going shopping to get the “friend” a birthday present. She wrapped it beautifully with a huge bow and made me bring it to school to give to the birthday girl.

I awkwardly gave the present to the girl who carelessly stuffed it in her backpack. On the day of the party my mom planned a girls day where we went shopping and to a movie. I didn’t know it then, but my mom was teaching me an important lesson – to always be the bigger person and rise above. Like Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.”

Just because someone treats you poorly, doesn’t mean you need to stoop to their level. In fact, it’s a perfect opportunity to turn it around and show them how people should act. Sadly, nastiness doesn’t stop in grade school. You’ve all seen in the workplace. You’ve all seen it with both kids and adults while watching sports, dance, gymnastics, etc. Heck, you’ve surely seen it trying to navigate stores and parking lots during the holidays.

A recent blog post on Today’s Parent caught my attention. It was called Tales of a Fifth Grade Nothing and was written by a Christine Burke. Check out her blog Keeper of the Fruit Loops. She is an incredible writer and hilarious. I promise you’ll enjoy reading her blog!

Christine’s blog is what sparked my fifth grade memory. I posted a comment about it on the Today Parents Facebook post featuring the blog and shared my experience.

My comment on the Today Family Facebook post:

“…I didn’t understand it at the time, but my mom insisted we get her a very nice present anyway and that I bring it to school to give her…my mom taught me that it’s always better to be the bigger person and do the right thing. I now have two small daughters and you better believe I teach them compassion, empathy and to treat everyone with respect.”

Another reader responded to my post and said my daughters and I would end up being doormats. I assume she was referring to the part about being the bigger person and teaching my daughters compassion and empathy.

Being kind and respectful does not make you a doormat. You can lead with kindness, but still be strong and confident. Compassion doesn’t equal weakness and strength does not need to equal nastiness. There is a balance.

When I was immersed in the corporate world, there were numerous times I encountered people (both women and men) who treated their colleagues with complete disrespect. I also had the honor to work with people who were inspirational leaders, but never tore anyone else down or spoke rudely to anyone. Instead, they were strong, honest and supportive. Want to guess which type of leader I was loyal to and would go above and beyond to help?

If you mistake kindness for weakness, that says more about you than anything else.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to raise children who are kind, confident and strong…with a little humor thrown in for good measure. This is definitely not an easy task and involves a lot of trial an error. No one is perfect and much like us, our kids will mess up. However, it’s how we handle those blips that help teach the best lessons.

I am extremely proud that at ages four and seven, my girls speak their minds, but are also empathetic to others. I burst with pride when someone compliments my children on their manners or when teachers tell me my kid helped a classmate or comforted another child. I also appreciate when teachers or others alert me when my kids aren’t acting how they should. You better believe the situation is addressed immediately.

Not going to lie, I also like how they sometimes don’t have a filter and say things out loud that I wish I could. For instance, we were recently walking out of a large department store and the young man in front of us let the heavy door slam in our faces. He absolutely saw us behind him and was just inconsiderate. I struggled to rebalance my bags and grab the door in the wind before is smacked either of the girls.

When we got outside, my four-year-old loudly said, “Why did that man let the door close on us?” And my seven-year-old chimed in with, “Because he doesn’t have any manners and is rude.”

The young man spun around and glared at us. My girls have VERY LOUD voices, so quite a few other shoppers turned around too…most with grins on their faces. Gotta love the honesty of kids.

*No matter what the situation or time of year – kindness is always in fashion.

 

 

PPW – Like it, Love it, Live it

Standard

holiday-trip-packaging-8434.jpg

Early in my career, I landed a job at PR firm in downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue. My office was steps away from incredible city attractions and tons of shopping. I was also making what I thought at the time was a lot of money for a young single gal. Did I save it and invest? Nope – I indulged in shopping trips during my lunch breaks and after work. Ahh – being young and naive and the tough lessons we learn.

After one of my lunchtime shopping trips a coworker asked to see what I bought. I excitedly showed her a funky off the shoulder brightly colored sweater and the most expensive pair of jeans I had ever purchased. All of my jeans in the past had been from the sale rack at the Gap, but these were a pair of Hudson jeans for $100. I felt like a new person in these jeans – legs elongated and butt lifted! Not that a 24-year-old really needs much help with a perky butt.

My coworker asked how much I paid for each item and then told me to immediately return the sweater, but to keep the jeans. I was stumped and a little annoyed. That is until she educated me about the PPW…or Price Per Wear theory.

That acronym changed my entire shopping mindset. The PPW forces you to think about how often you might wear something in relation to the price. For instance, the Hudson jeans I bought for $100 are an item I would likely wear 100 times over the next year, making the PPW approximately $1.00 per wear. That’s a pretty good investment, especially considering you likely keep and wear a great pair of jeans for year, which I did with this pair.

On the contrary, the brightly colored off the shoulder sweater I bought for $50, I would likely wear twice over the next year, making the PPW approximately $25. Not such a great deal. And, it was a trendy style that I’d probably abandon after a year. Thank goodness I kept the receipt!

The PPW is why you should invest in high quality staples like a great winter coat you’ll wear for a number of seasons, well made leather riding boots, jeans that fit your body like a glove or anything cashmere. That doesn’t mean you should go hog wild and spend a boatload of money on these items. Definitely look for the best deal on the highest quality items you can find.

Red coat

My 10-year-old red Tahari trench I still wear! PPW is currently at 33 cents.

For instance, about 10 years ago I stumbled upon an incredible red Tahari calf length trench coat. Originally $500, it was on sale for $100. Buying that coat was one of my smartest purchases. It is well made, classic, classy and every year, I wear it a minimum of 30 times. If you do the math – 10 years x 30 wears per year = approximately 33 cents per wear!  And, the coat is still in mint condition, so I will continue to wear it.

On the other hand, PPW is also why I will never spend much on things like a trendy cold shoulder shirt, jeans with tears in them, pleather leggings (which seem to be all the rage

Born boot

I purchased this pair of Born Boots at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. They were on sale for $150 (originally $240) and I’ve already worn them 10 times. PPW to date = $15.

this Fall), over the knee boots or leopard booties. These are the items I scour the racks for at TJ Maxx or Nordstrom Rack and wait until they go on clearance for $10 – $20.

At a recent Nordstrom Rack Clear the Rack sale, I found a pair of pleather leggings for $11. I bought them and for that price, I won’t feel bad if I only wear them twice, which is probably what will happen.

I also wanted to try out the over the knee boot trend, but paying $150 for a pair is a joke. Luckily I found a pair on clearance at Target for $19.99 at the end of the season last year. I’ve worn them twice and might wear the twice more this year.

PPW is also one of the reasons I will ever buy my daughters a pair of Uggs, like the ones I see lots of other girls her age wearing. That’s a PPW nightmare! But more on kids items and PPW in another post.

As you’re charging full force ahead (pun intended!) with holiday shopping, you’ll likely find an item or two for yourself. Keep the PPW theory in the back of your head before you purchase any pieces of clothing, shoes or jewelry. The one exception to the PPW rule would be a wedding dress!

I will always be grateful to my old colleague for educating me about PPW. So simple, yet so impactful!

 

 

 

Confessions of a Non-Crafty Mom

Standard

art supplies

I have a confession to make…I absolutely despise doing arts and craft projects with my kids. The dentist has more appeal to me than scrapbooking or leading a Thanksgiving craft project for a class of 20 second graders. There – I finally said it out loud and you know what? I am not ashamed.

Thanks to Pinterest, mommy blogs and the marketing of a zillion “make your own” kits, it’s assumed once you become a mom you should also immediately channel Martha Stewart. I dread the headband making, bracelet making and pottery making sets my daughters inevitable receive on their birthdays.

Looking back at my childhood, I never enjoyed art class and I wasn’t a kid who spent rainy days inside doing craft projects or sewing. Ironically, both of my girls are obsessed with creating objects out of construction paper, making paper chains and anything that involves glue sticks. I support their artistic efforts because it makes them happy, but I definitely don’t enjoy it.

As a parent, I cringe when I see crayons, markers, confetti and any other craft items strewn about my house. Don’t get me started on the piles of drawings that come home from preschool every single day. I usually wait until I am alone and then weed out the one or two best pictures and toss the rest. Come one – stop judging – you know you’ve done the same thing at one point or another.

IMG_8513

Sorry to the kids who got the last batch of jack-o-lanterns. Momma may have been sipping a bit of wine to get through the project.

Last year, I volunteered for my daughter’s first grade Halloween party. In an attempt to impress the other mom’s I found a Pinterest project involving turning Cuties into Jack-o-Lanterns and suckers into ghosts. Looked simple, but after close to three-hours of tying tiny strings on suckers, drawing faces on fruit and packaging 26 sets of everything, I was at my breaking point. Yet, I was damn proud as I brought those treats into the classroom.

Guess what – the kid tore them open in a split second and I would bet not one of them (my own child included) remember those treats. What my daughter does remember is that I was there and was part of her party.

 

Friends have recommended taking photos of every scribble, drawing and art project and then putting them all into a Shutterfly photo book. Or, laminating everything and putting them in a binder. Not surprisingly, I have no interest in doing either of those things.

Art

These drawings make my heart sing. 

I am not heartless. If you look around my house, you’ll see various drawings taped to the wall and pieces of artwork and sculptures on my coffee table. The Martha Stewart exception for me is baking. I do love to whip up a mean batch of brownies or cupcakes. Although, I admit to using a mix and doctoring it up a la Sandra Lee from Semi-Homemade. My girls are always excited to add our super secret ingredient. Pssst – the super secret ingredient is a “pinch of love.” It makes everything taste 100% better.

I’m not hating on those who possess the craft gene. In fact, I am envious of the talents of my friends. I love seeing the photos on Facebook of the awesome crafts and decorating projects. It’s just not a talent I’ve ever possessed or even enjoyed. Like the meme going around Facebook says – I am more of an Amazon Prime mom than a Pinterest mom.

I spent years feeling embarrassed about my lack of artistic talent and the expectation that all moms should be craft and decorating divas. It turns out the pressure I felt was purely self-induced. My daughters don’t really notice or care that I’m not crafty. They love the uneven streamers I haphazardly tape to their bedroom doors for their birthdays and the giant bouquet of balloons from the Dollar Store.

When you come to a birthday party for one of my kids, the decorations may be straight from Party City, the cupcakes may have had an assist from Betty Crocker, and the goody bags may consist of a snack pack of Oreos. But there will also be lots of laughter, love and fun.

Now, if one of my crafty friends ever wants to help a sister out and have my daughters over to work on a craft project, I promise to bring snacks and wine!

 

 

Greasy hair…Heck Yeah I Care!

Standard

Dry shampoo

*Post contains affiliate links

My daughters are both blessed with gorgeous hair. One has pin straight fine hair. She wakes up in the morning, runs a brush through her hair and it looks perfectly bouncy and shiny. The other has thick wavy hair that holds styles like no other. The best part is both can go days without washing their hair and it still looks gorgeous. Ahhhh – youth.

Me – not so much. I am cursed with dry ends and oily roots. I wash my hair every other day to help preserve the color and keep the ends from getting even dryer. Just kidding – it’s really because I am lazy. Come on, who wouldn’t choose sleeping an extra 20-30 minutes in the morning instead of washing, dryer and straightening her hair? And if the side benefit is my color last longer and my hair is healthier, then go me!

The trade-off is on the non-wash days my roots look sooo greasy, especially if I’ve worked out. Whenever my hair is in a ponytail or twisted up, you know it means I didn’t wash it. The only solution (well, besides washing and drying my hair every day) is dry shampoo.

But for some reason the idea of dry shampoo scares me. Maybe it’s because of the versions that came out years ago and left white flakes in your hair and never seemed to work anyway. Or, maybe it’s because there are so many brands to choose from!

To help narrow down the choices, I recently polled my friends about their favorite dry shampoos. I tested the top four recommendations…and the results are in and ranked from 1-4.

Although, I have to admit all of them did the job well. I also learned (the hard way) you need to spray your hair from about 10 inches away and let it sit for 30 seconds before combing through. Otherwise your basically right where you started.

  1. Living Proof Perfect Hair Day (PhD) Dry Shampoo
  2. Batiste Dry Shampoo
  3. Redken Pillow Proof Blow Dry Two Day Extender Dry Shampoo
  4. Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Dry Shampoo

Living ProofThe Living Proof Dry Shampoo blew me away. It was the only product that both smelled great (but not overpowering) and soaked up the oil so well that I could actually wear my hair down again for a second day in a row, which is basically unheard of for me. It also gave my fine hair a bit of volume at the roots, which was an unexpected surprise. A friend said she sometimes uses the dry shampoo on her clean hair just to add volume to her roots. Living Proof is the priciest of the bunch at $22 for four onces, but well worth the splurge.

batisteBatiste did a great job. I only tested the original version, but it comes in a few different scents, and versions geared towards blonds, medium and dark brunettes. There is even a version that has gold shimmer in it. To be honest, the ones with hair color scare me. I have highlights in my hair and didn’t want to risk spray a color depositing product on my head. Batiste clocks in at an affordable $5.99 – $7.99 for $6.73 ounces.

Pillow ProofThe Pillow Proof Dry Shampoo worked well, but I didn’t love the scent. It wasn’t horrible, but compared to some of the others, the scent was definitely not a draw. It is also expensive at $20 for 3.4 ounces. I’m willing to spend more money on a product I love, but since I didn’t love this product, the cost is a huge barrier for me.

Clean Freak Dry Shampoo worked well, but didn’t degrease as Clean Freakwell as some of the others. I also noticed a little bit of the dreaded whitish flakes floating in my hair. I had to almost scrub my scalp to make sure the flakes were gone. Clean Freak is $5.99 for 7 ounces, so for a girl on a tight budget, this is a good option.

Bottom line – Living Proof Dry Shampoo now has a permanent place in my beauty routine. I am kicking myself for not discovering it sooner!

Little known fact – Ulta will allow you to return any product you purchase and end up disliking. So there’s nothing stopping you from picking some up to try. What’s the worst that can happen…you don’t like it and go back to Ulta and get a refund? Trust me – you won’t head back to Ulta to return your Living Proof Dry Shampoo. You’ll be heading back to stock up on more!

 

 

 

 

My Personal Glinda

Standard
This is the first of a monthly series recognizing the “SHEroes” who have touched my life. 

homepageAwareness300x170

I often wonder why bad things happen to good people. Actually, it infuriates me when bad things happen to good people! We’ve all heard the saying, “things happen for a reason” or “you’re never given more than you can handle.”  ARGH! That’s tough to believe when you’re in the midst of a challenging situation.

Sometimes people come into your life at the exact moment you need them and you don’t even know. Eleven years ago, I was two weeks into a brand-new job and my dad had just been diagnosed with cancer. To say I was feeling lost would be an understatement. It was also at that time when I was introduced to an incredible woman named Cheryl Kravitz.

I was at a work event where we were training domestic violence survivors to be part of a speakers bureau. Cheryl was perfectly put together, had a huge smile on her face and when I went to shake her hand, she pulled me in for a hug. It’s almost like she knew I needed a hug at that very moment! You could feel the warmth and positive vibes radiating from her.

I assumed Cheryl was an advocate there to show support. That was until she shared her story of survivor to thriver…and I learned not to judge a book by its cover.

Cheryl wrote a powerful op-ed for The Washington Post. Click here to read her story of surviving an abusive marriage and how speaking up can change a life.

Cheryl is a journalist, advocate, mother, mentor, dear friend and a survivor of both domestic violence and breast cancer. Yes – she faced two devils and emerged victorious. She did this all while continuing to help raise awareness and funding for both causes. Did I mention she worked for the Red Cross and has been a board member of the Governor’s Maryland Family Violence Council, the Family Justice Center Foundation and the Maryland Network to End Domestic Violence…just to name a few.

What’s even more impressive is how Cheryl has harnessed the power of positive thinking and intention.

Cheryl Kravitz

I tip my tiara to you, Cheryl, my personal Glinda.

 

We all know the story of Glinda the Good Witch telling Dorothy that she “had the power all along.” Sometimes we need someone else to remind us of that notion. You see, instead of feeling sorry for herself when she was heading into the hospital for cancer treatments and surgery, Cheryl handed out magic wands to friends, family and even hospital staff. Friends across the country bought their own magic wands and together, we all wished for health and recovery.

And you know what – it worked! It may sound simple but it takes extreme strength to turn a tragic time into one of unity and empowerment. That’s who Cheryl is – she is a leader and an inspiration. My older daughter still has the wand we bought to help heal Miss Cheryl.

We are stronger together!

Click here to read more about Cheryl’s power of the wand in the Washingtonian.

The more I got to know her over the years, the more Cheryl’s beautiful and supportive spirit shined brighter. She was a constant support during my dad’s cancer battle and passing and she also reached out to my mom through social media to show her support. Whenever I am having a challenging time a note seems to pop up from Cheryl with a positive thought to remind me to tap into my strengths and believe in myself. I swear she has a sixth sense!

In fact, Cheryl was recently in town for a business trip. She knew I was going through a tough time and went out of her way to listen to me and be there as a friend and mentor. And she also brought me a fabulous gift called a Damnit Doll.

dammit dolls

Cheryl and me with our Damnit Dolls.

Whenever you’re feeling upset or frustrated, you can take it all out on the doll. Trust me – it helps!!!

Cheryl is the definition of a SHEroe. A beautiful soul who is a selfless inspiration to others. Every time I grasp my magic wand and close my eyes to make a wish, I think of Cheryl…and also when I take out my aggression on my Damnit Doll!

Cheryl’s friendship has changed my life and I have no doubt she has touched more lives than she can even count. Next time you see a magic wand lying around, pick it up and feel your own strength course through it, and I am positive you’ll also feel your spirit lift.

Who are some of the SHEroes in your life? 

To support economic empowerment for survivors of domestic violence and learn more about how to break the cycle of violence, visit www.PurplePurse.com and to support cancer research and resources, please visit www.AmericanCancerSociety.org.