Monday, March 31, 2014

How to be a Housewife (Without Feeling Like a Slave)

Now, don't get the wrong idea here... I'm not sending a passive aggressive message out there to men (do men even read blogs?) that women hate doing house duties. We love it - right, ladies??? (wink, wink) And I'm not complaining either. (Although I do despise laundry, I love a clean house; so it's a double-edged sword.) One thing I'm BIG on is positive thinking. Sometimes, it is hard to be positive if you are feeling overwhelmed with dishes, laundry, cleaning, cooking... oh yeah... LIVING IN and maintaining a home. So, I thought sharing my thoughts on this topic could maybe help some disgruntled wifeys out there.

1) Don't hate, delegate- I'm a huge fan of starting young with manageable tasks around the home. There are a bunch of lists floating around the interwebs of chore lists for kiddos, and a lot of them are pretty dang silly (one suggests letting a 2-3 year old put dishes away, um no!)  -- but my favorite one is fromKids Activities Blog. 

2) Be thankful - It's easy for us to list all the things we are thankful for leading up to Thanksgiving, but there are plenty of things to be thankful for day-to-day. I'm lucky (spoiled), and my husband makes dinner almost every night. We always thank him for dinner. We also ask each other what is something we are thankful for, what is something funny that happened today, etc. (More on our dinnertime questions here)

3) Get up early (earlier) - What is that, you say? "I already get up at 5:30 flipping AM, Tara, should I even bother going to sleep?" I feel your pain! I can't even think about waking up without my daughter sensing it and beating me to it. Make it 15-30 minutes earlier. Plenty of time to put on some coffee, fold and put away a load of laundry or unload the dishwasher.

4) Make it part of your routine - I know some families that designate a day or two a week for a laundry extravaganza. If this works for your family, then excellent! I prefer doing small loads daily (start a load when the last kid is bathed and in pajamas) and just make sure to get it in the dryer before the rest of us go to bed. If I think about it, I sometimes get the clothes folded and put away each night too. Dishwasher usually gets ran every other night. Obviously this depends on the size of your family.

5) Speed clean - Ruth over at Living Well Spending Less wrote an excellent blog post about Speed Cleaning. In fact, everything Ruth puts on her blog is absolutely amazing... I think speed cleaning is best accomplished if you treat it as a race with a definite time limit. If you are stopping ever couple of minutes to check your phone, read your email or look at what everyone else is up to on Facebook, you will be much less speedy and efficient with your time.

6) Simplify - Are you stuffing 8 pairs of clean socks into a sock drawer of about 20 more pairs? Me too; I actually just did this exact thing this morning. Simplify, honey. The less stuff there is around, the less stuff there is to get dirty and need cleaning. This goes for EVERYTHING in your house. Garage sale season is around the corner; get to simplifying! I LOVE this 40 bags in 40 days challenge that was designed for Lent, but I believe you can start it at anytime. I missed starting this for Lent, but I may just do it in preparation of my first summer garage sale.

7) Make your space pretty - I know that there is little that is fun about laundry, but think about how much better it would be if you were doing laundry in a cute laundry room instead of a dark, bare-walled, messy little room (mine has no windows) where lint goes to die? Spruce up the rooms where you do your slave labor (kidding), and you will find more joy in hanging around in there. Other rooms that could use some sprucing up? The kitchen, the bathrooms, heck the whole house!

8) Stop comparing - Especially if both adults in the home are working, it's easy to feel like the housework load isn't always equally divided. If you are able to delegate some of the housework to other members of the family, great! But if you aren't, and the buck does stop with you, then stop comparing. Stop counting the loads of laundry that you have done that week that someone else hasn't had to do. Stop thinking about how many times you have vacuumed up a mess that someone else has made. Just stop thinking about it like that. All this will do is cause major angst and major issues. And guess what? The chores will still be there after you are done throwing a hissy fit.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Multi-taskin' Mamas: {Amy from Chicago}

{{{A little about this blog series: I'm super excited to announce a new blog series I am doing called Multi-taskin' Mamas. I was trying to think of a way to share stories of other moms. Working moms, stay-at-home-moms and working-from-home-moms all sharing their stories about how the heck they juggle it all. So we can feel comfort in hearing the stories of other mamas who bust their tails and somehow get it all done at the end of the day, not knowing if they are doing it all right at all. So we can support one another by empathizing versus judging and casting our mommy guilts on one another.}}}

I'm really excited about this week's Multi-taskin' Mama, Amy. When I read Amy's story, I can really relate to her on several levels - being a step mom, having a young child, and also having a demanding work schedule. Thanks Amy for your story and sharing with us how you balance it all!

Amy's Story

I am very lucky to be stepmom to Joshua (10) and Rebekah (6), mommy to David (2), and wife to Alex (I’ll spare you his age). When I’m not at my first job as mom, I am at my second job as a program officer at the Spencer Foundation. Spencer funds research for the purpose of improving education. This means that I get to decide which research projects to fund, develop initiatives around important issues in education, and conduct my own research on the transition from high school to postsecondary education for urban youth.   

I love my job and it offers a very good work-life balance with an eight hour day and great benefits. But the downside is that I have a decent amount of travel, plus I spend about three hours per day commuting from the burbs to the city. I try to use this time productively, but most of the time I end up playing on my phone! On weekends I try to put work aside and focus only on my kids—but truth be told, between all the activities, play dates, and birthday parties, I wouldn’t have time to do work even if I wanted to! Every other weekend and half the week the big kids are with their mom, so that’s when we try to pay a lot of attention to David. It’s nice to be able to give him that one-on-one attention, but he sure does miss his brother and sister!

I also take on most of the responsibilities for the house and paying the bills. There’s really not much time left for doing anything for myself! Before I had kids, I did a lot of volunteer work. I definitely miss that. But I also know that when my kids are a bit older, that is something we will be able to do together. Other things that have fallen to the wayside include most of my hobbies, like reading, knitting, sewing, and watching movies. It takes me months to get through a book because I usually fall asleep after two pages! I can’t remember the last movie I saw! I also miss spending time with my friends, and I definitely don’t spend enough time with my husband. I know that this will all get better with time.

I have figured out a few tricks for managing it all. Being organized is essential. I always lay out my clothes the night before, as well as the kids’ clothes. The kids’ school bags are ready to go and on their chairs in the kitchen, along with their coats, hats, and gloves (in the winter). Alex makes the big kids breakfast the night before. David eats breakfast at school, which makes life a lot easier when your toddler is picky. We try to make our own lunches the night before, but we also factor into our budget that we are going to eat lunch out a few times a week. We also make space in our budget to have our house cleaned every week, which is totally essential to my sanity. I definitely don’t have time to go to the gym, but instead I walk the two miles each way from the train station to my office, which adds up to 20 miles a week! On Saturdays I work out in my basement with a trainer at the crack of dawn, before anyone else is awake.  I don’t mind waking up early on a Saturday because I love the chance to have some quiet time before the chaos begins!

One of the hardest things is keeping everything we have to do straight, and Google calendar is totally essential. We started using this because it helped us keep track of whose house the kids are supposed to be at, but now I schedule pretty much every obligation, event, activity, etc. My iPhone then syncs my work calendar with my Google calendar and I can see everything I have to do in one place. When there is something that either my husband or I really want to do on a weekend, like a date night or some time to ourselves (Alex likes to go cross-country skiing in the winter and kayaking in the summer, or if I want to have coffee with a friend or take a long walk), we put it on the calendar. This way the other person doesn’t schedule anything, and it’s much more likely that it will actually happen. (Which reminds me, I must schedule time for Alex to do our taxes this weekend. ;))

There are definitely days where I feel like I’m just not winning! There’s no doubt that I can’t be as good a mom, wife, employee, citizen, etc. as I want to be. I am definitely not very knowledgeable about the situation in the Ukraine. I haven’t seen Scandal. I didn’t vote in my local primary. I eat more chocolate than I’d like to admit. I have sent my kid to school wearing his pajamas on more than one occasion. But at the end of the day, I’m doing the best I can and that’s enough. There are three little people at the center of my world, and in the blink of an eye they won’t be so little anymore. One day I’ll have time again to do the things I love to do, but right now my focus is on my kids, my husband, and my work.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

24 Day Cleanse - How I Survived Days 1-7

Without getting all specific, I'm going to talk about a 24 day cleanse that I'm doing: what I am eating, and howI am feeling throughout the whole thing. Before the cleanse, I got familiar with all the accoutrements (powders, pills, diet plan, etc) and went to the store. I got everything I needed to prep my meals for the first 5 days and spent a couple of hours on Sunday making and storing breakfasts and lunches.

For the first work week, this is what my fridge looked like.

I need to work on my meals looking more appetizing, so I'm not even going to show you a picture of the actual food - very amorphous and bland looking. Some people might need or want different stuff daily, but I am a creature of habit. So I'm plenty fine eating the same thing every morning, as long as it's half way good. As the day progresses though it's harder to eat the same thing. I made my lunches a little different each day so I wouldn't get bored with that, and dinner each night was completely different than the night before.

Prepped Food for the Work Week 

Days 1-5 breakfast: oatmeal with apple slices and scrambled eggs (1/3 the yolks only) with cayenne and red pepper added for a little kick. Pretty bland.
Days 1-5 lunch: I mix and matched the following: ham deli meat (I know it's high in sodium, but it needed to be eaten, and I'm not about wasting food), boiled eggs, spinach, sweet peppers, quinoa, baby carrots. So one day I might have quinoa, spinach and chopped deli meat, another day I might have quinoa, sweet peppers and chopped boiled eggs, etc. This was actually much tastier than it sounds, y'all.
Days 1-5 snacks: baby carrots and boiled eggs.

How I'm Feeling About Life

Day 1 - This really isn't as hard as I thought it was going to be; I was full all day. I'm motivated by the fact that I don't want to waste the dollar bills I just dropped on this program! My meals weren't bad and I haven't cheated. YAY.

Day 2 - All I want is chocolate. Dinner was amazing; we had lettuce wraps with grilled chicken and pico de gallo that I overloaded with lime. I love lime. But I also want chocolate, and I'm super glad that there isn't any in the house, or I would be cheating right now. I have had such a sweet tooth since I was pregnant with Boo.

Day 3 - Ate peanut butter, just a little bit. Today, a co-worker who doesn't see me often told me I looked like I have lost weight. I haven't really, but it was a psychological boost. I also got this neat thing for my car that you plug into the 12 volt thing and it heats up your food - quick, too. HAYYY. Mama's eating good!

Day 4 - Went to Outback for dinner, I ate good and within the guidelines except for I didn't realize the steamed green beans came with butter all over them. Oh well, ate it anyway! I have peed a trillion times today, it feels like. SO. much. water.

Day 5 - Hooray! I made it this far. It really has not been difficult. I do hate baby carrots now though. I'm a little nervous about the weekend and being able to stay on track. I will prevail! Also, a family I work with who I hadn't seen in 2 weeks complimented me on my appearance. I know it is too soon to see any real results with weight loss, so I am attributing this compliment to the positive attitude I have especially since starting the cleanse. I also whitened my teeth last night and am smiling a lot. :) no judgement.

Day 6 - I'm a complete grump today. I attribute this to not having planned out meals and having more "free time" (if that even exists with a young child around) to think about all the things I couldn't eat and wanted to eat (... or drink. Like wine. or Beer. or BOTH). I ended up sticking to the plan, and for an early dinner we went to Joe's Crab Shack. YES I ATE THE POTATOES OK? It was the only "bad" thing I did all day; I didn't even eat anything sweet at night. Fist. Pump.

Day 7 - We went to the store and got everything I needed to prep for next week's breakfasts and lunches. I am way more excited about what I am eating this week. But I'll write more about that next week. I'm down several pounds and am overall feeling great! I'm trying not to put too much weight (ha pun intended) on the scale, because I am running (read: exaggerated walking) 3x a week. Baby steps, y'all. I'm now a water-drinking champ. 90 oz? NO PROBLEM. Why not more? I know there is such a thing as "too much" water, but I am probably drinking about 120 oz a day. I pee 80 trillion times a day.

Stay tuned next Sunday for how I'm doing on Days 8-14!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spring Fling Baby Fashion Giveaway!!!

The snow is finally melting here in Chicago! HOORAY! The sun is out, and even though it is still pretty chilly out, I have been guilty several times of putting Boo in outfits that are more "Spring" than the weather calls for. Oops. I'm just so ready to pack away the snow suits and pull out the cute spring clothes.

Which got me thinking... I must not be the only one fiendin' for some cute spring fashion for my little. Which got me thinking... We totally need to do a GIVEAWAY!


This Spring Fling Baby Fashion Giveaway has 7 amazing items to bring your little one into Spring with some serious fashion sense. I can honestly say that I am jealous of whoever wins AND their baby. We have (top to bottom, and left to right as pictured):

  •  A "Dream Big Little One" shirt (size 3-6 mo, 6-12 mo, or 12-18 mo) from Three Little Numbers
  • A pair of super adorable leggings (size newborn to 5T) from Mag+Pie 

  • Your choice of any bib from Snapbib (personal fav is the gold glitter one!)
  • A gift card for a pair of Freshly Picked's moccasins
  • A pink bowtie created by Mark It with A Q sold by Kate & Linny (perfect for the little fellas) (AND Easter!!)

  • A mustard yellow double loop eternity scarf from Wild Frays 
  • Your choice between two pre-selected headbands made by Miss Charlie's Bowtique (perfect for the little ladies)

A little about the shops featured in this giveaway:

Three Little Numbers - "We design hip + modern screen printed tees for awesome kids. We believe awesome kids should have awesome shirts." 

Mag+Pie - "High quality clothing and accessories for hip and trendy littles. Organic cotton leggings, bandanas, hats and headbands."

Snapbibs - "Here at Snap Bibs, we're passionate about creating simple, sturdy bibs that keep kids clean and make life easier for parents. All of our bibs are made from thick, sturdy vinyl and a heavy duty metal snap. We've loved using these bibs in our home for several years and we're so excited to now share the high quality design and functionality of our favorite bibs with you!"

Wild Frays - "I am a sucker for bows, bow ties & scarfs. Ever since I had my daughter in 2012 I have become obsessed. I loved them so much that I decided to start making my own with super cute modern fabric. I hope you all love these unique bows and scarfs as much as I do!"

Kate & Linny - "Kate and Linny offers limited-time sales on products perfect for your home and life. The items featured on the site are either made by, developed by or sold by moms, with a few exceptions thrown into the mix of products that are just too good for moms to miss out on! Founded by friends Katherine and Lindsay, who have more than 20 years of mothering experience combined, the site not only showcases products for moms by moms, it also highlights mompreneurs by featuring a rotating Mompreneur of the Week and touches on all things motherhood on Kate and Linny’s Blog."

Miss Charlie's Bowtique - Inspired by her daughter Charlie, this mom started making headbands for littles for holidays and special occasions. Custom orders and ready made! 

Freshly Picked - "Each pair of moccasins, whether being shipped to the rich and famous (or at least their kids), or shipped across town, are made with care, perfection and a love for the little feet they are intended for. We sincerely hope you enjoy our product!"

Here's the info on the giveaway --- do all the things that Rafflecopter asks you to do (if you want the entries). There are certain entries you can do each day for additional entries! Once the giveaway is finito, we will use Rafflecopter to generate a winner. We will contact you, be super jealous of you, and get you your goodies!!!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 17, 2014

DIY: Babysitter's Box {Free Printables Included!}

Am I the only one who feels like a psycho when leaving my kid with a babysitter? I'm keeping myself from stalker texting and/or calling the minute I walk out the door and am hoping that I left them with all the information they need to care for my little cherub.

Usually, when we leave Beulah with a babysitter, we have tried to plan it to where she is already asleep. We sneak out of the house like rebellious teenagers and hope she doesn't even wake up to discover our absences. But the last two instances, our plans started during the day. My OCD-ness kicked in, and I decided to create a Babysitter's Box.

Rather than walk all over the house, showing the babysitter where everything she would need was located, I just shoved it all in a big tubberware that I already had. While I was at it, I printed out some things about our home and our baby for her to have if she needed it and taped it to the inside top of the tubberware. I also printed out a tylenol dosage chart I created and Infant Choking Basics sheet. I also printed out and laminated (read: covered in clear packing tape) a "our routine" page that was blank... to be filled out with a dry erase marker before I left to reflect whatever schedule we are on that day.

Here are some printables I created:


I included everything that would be needed while we were away:
  • diapers and wipes
  • food for 2 meals
  • bowl and spoons
  • formula and bottle
  • bibs
  • tylenol (with the dosage chart, and only to be used if told by us)
  • gripe water
  • monitor
  • a change of clothes/jammies
And it ended up looking like this:

I left it on the table, gave a quick spiel, and left knowing that at least all of the obvious bases were covered. 

Hope this helps y'all like it has our family! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sloppy Habanero Joes

Ok, OK. This is NOT a paleo recipe. Not only did we eat this on yummy, bad-for-you white bread, but some of the ingredients are also not caveman-friendly, SO SHOOT ME.

On the 82,583th day of winter, we were sick of all of our go-to soups and casseroles, so my husband brought back this favorite from our childhoods - the sloppy joe.

(I'm not going to tell you what my husband calls these, but it rhymes with joes. and starts with an "h") (.... sloppy _______) (get it?!?!?!) Anyway. This was delicious, but not for the faint of heart on the spice. It's not too hot, but if you don't like the heat, just don't put in the habanero. But then, you can't call them sloppy habanero joes; you'll have to call them what my husband does. Sorry, those are the rules.

(Serves 8)

  • 2 lbs ground chicken (or you could use turkey or beef)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup of chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup of ketchup (we used the organic stuff)
  • 1/4 cup of chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic 
  • 1 teaspoon of finely chopped habanero pepper *optional *but it's good
  • 8 hamburger buns
Easiest Cooking Directions Ever: 
  1. Brown the meat of choice in a skillet. Drain the juices.
  2. Add all of your ingredients, and stir well. 
  3. Let cook on low until vegetables cooked to desired consistency. 
  4. Serve on buns with plenty of napkins!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Multi-taskin' Mamas : {The Vintage Doll} : The Life of a Model Mom

I'm super excited to announce a new blog series I am doing called Multi-taskin' Mamas. I was trying to think of a way to share stories of other moms. Working moms, stay-at-home-moms and working-from-home-moms all sharing their stories about how the heck they juggle it all. So we can feel comfort in hearing the stories of other mamas who bust their tails and somehow get it all done at the end of the day, not knowing if they are doing it all right at all. So we can support one another by empathizing versus judging and casting our mommy guilts on one another.

I can't think of a better person to start off this series of Multi-taskin' Mamas than my sweet friend Emily otherwise known as The Vintage Doll. I have watched her grow as a pinup model and mama over the last couple of years. She is one of the few pinup gals who I have met and gotten to know exclusively online, but I am fairly certain that if we got a chance to rendezvous, we would have a blast. So I asked The Vintage Doll to be my first ever guest blogger, so us fellow mamas (and admirers- she has PLENTY!) can get an insight on what it's like to be a model and a mom. Without further adieu...  

The Life of a Model Mom by The Vintage Doll 

The modeling industry is a very hard job to be involved in, but an even harder job is being a mom. Take them both on at the same time, and you have your hands full to say the least.

The modeling/fashion world was always something I seemed to have a strong knowledge in. It's what I knew without even trying. I never wanted to be the girl in front of the camera but the one taking the beautiful photos I admired so often in the pages of the magazines I so intensely studied. My shy, self conscious nature would never allow my mind to consider being a model. No matter how many times I was told "You should totally model," I never saw myself as the type.

At the age of sixteen, I discovered the rockabilly culture. Never in my life have I fallen in love with something so much. When I discovered classic car magazines and the beautiful pinup models who graced the pages, I was done for. I yearned to embrace the style and confidence that the pinups I so admired did.

I wanted to embrace the culture that stole my heart from the very beginning. Not for the strong outward style, but because it felt like who I was always meant to be..... But could I do it? Five years went by, and not a day without studying the pinup culture. I was married and had just had my first son. I could no longer deny the pull at my heart to do something that had grown so important to me.

I decided to make the full transition to not only the pinup life style but to also start my career in pinup modeling. I wanted to do something for myself that I enjoyed. My son wasn't quite one yet so I knew that what I did do had to be workable with my schedule with a small baby - because no matter what he would always come first.

So, I decided to start a thing called a Facebook account and make a "fan page" -- which still sounds silly to me to have fans. I wanted to use it to network with pinup brands and magazines and have a place to store my photos. I needed photos to start my page with, so I got dressed in the only rockabilly pinup clothing I had (cuffed jeans and a white tank top), propped my camera up on my son's walker, set the timer, and ran for my couch to pose. The photo I captured at that moment truly made up my mind that I wanted to pursue pinup modeling. To this day is one of my favorite shots.

After a while I started doing actual photo shoots here and there and networking with other pinup brands and websites for features and sharing my work. I am a mother first, and my personal dream will never come before my children. Modeling is an extremely hard job to break into and actually make a name for yourself. Then, you throw being a full time mom on top of that, and at times it feels impossible. I can't tell you how many offers, jobs, features and tv spots I have turned down because I won't leave my kids.

My kids are very small, and right now, they need my time more than anything. It took me a long time to figure out how to balance both jobs. Once I did that it was a lot easier to do both. I have been modeling now for almost four years. In those four years, I have had another little boy, become a single mom (which I am still trying to adjust to), become internationally published in amazing pinup magazines, had countless features, am a brand model for many pinup and rockabilly style companies, have a youtube channel teaching the pinup style, and have a following of over 400,000 people who are the most amazing support anyone could have.

 I didn't gain the success in what I do overnight, and it was in no way handed to me. I had to work extremely hard for what I have accomplished in the pinup community. I had to learn that it was ok for me to do something that I love like modeling and still be a good mom. It's all about balance. You can be a mother and be accomplished in your career. You just have to learn that your duties as a mother can't suffer in turn of having a career. That was my biggest focus. Not allowing my children to ever come second to my own wants and dreams, because they deserve better than that.

My passions will always be there, but the memories I can miss out on putting my focus towards my own interests are irreplaceable, and I won't risk losing those. Find a balance in work and your children. Set limits and work hours. That was the most important thing for me to do --- set a time for my work that didn't intervene in the time in which my children needed me... which let's face it -- is most of the time!! Here and there, I only take jobs that are close to home, and most of my work and photo shoots I do myself with my kids right next to me. If it's really something you want, you can have the best of both worlds. Especially with how easy things are these days with computers and smart phones. You can run your whole empire from the palm of your hand while sitting on the floor playing with your kids.

There will always be those moments where you think it has to be one or the other because situations come up where it seems impossible for the two lives to mesh, but that's when you truly see how strong you are -- to find a way to overcome them.

If I would have given up in the beginning, when it seemed like I couldn't be both a mom and a model, I would have missed out on so much. Not just a successful modeling career, but learning and growing as a confident and strong woman. Learning about who I am as a mother and what I can do to better myself for my boys. That I am a voice and source of inspiration for others who are looking for someone to support them and tell them they are worth it and they can do anything they want.

So far both being a mom and a model have been amazing journeys and have both given me so much. Mostly, learning about who I am meant to be in this world and that I am strong and can do anything I put my heart into. Through hard moments, moments that make me cry, moments that break me down, my boys are always there for me. That's why the balance is so important.

Find The Vintage Doll on Facebook at
and on Youtube at

Monday, March 10, 2014

Five Tips for Perfect Family Photos

Hooray! Hibernation is almost over, which means Spring is around the corner. Among the many things that this means is you can go outside without bundling you and your kids up in a million layers, and for some it may mean family photo time!!!

Family photos are always a stressful time for me. If it's just me in a photo shoot, that is one thing, but once we start adding family members, I get a little wigged out. I decided to pick the brains of some of my friends who just happen to also be photographers to find out what the pros think are must-knows for family photos.

1. DO scour the social medias for examples of family photos you like, and bring them with you to the shoot. Believe me, it is way easier for a photographer to see a creatively-posed picture with props and be able to recreate it, than for the photographer to listen to you try to describe it. This is much like bringing a picture of a desired hair style to your hairdresser. Not doing so can be a not fun game of operator... what you started with will not be what the end result is.

2. DON'T wear white. Now, don't get all upset if you have your heart set on a pair of fabulous white jeans; it might still work. My cousin Denise runs Flair Photos out of Groves, Texas. What she had to say about white is perfect, so why recreate the wheel? "Well, my biggest fear in the world is for a family to show up all wearing white shirts and jeans. I always tell people absolutely no white. Not only does it wash them out, but it limits our editing options because it tends to be too bright." There you go, ladies and gents. Straight from the horse's mouth.

3. DO coordinate, but don't be overly matchy. Is "matchy" a word? No? I don't care. Everyone knows what being too matchy means and, more importantly, what it looks like. The extreme of this would be two or more family members wearing pieces of the same outfit. This is just not okay, y'all. Please don't. But you can coordinate. For this, I'd like to showcase the perfect example of coordinating colors.
Photo by Flair Photos 

So, here is the perfect example of coordinating outfits using bright colors and accessories in this photo by Flair Photos. Who would have ever thought that yellow and pink would go so wonderfully together?!? And those little cherubs?!? Adorable.

4. DO accessorize. How do you make coordination work? The answer is accessories. My photographer pal Suzie Bell, who did my first pinup shoot, also rocks the house with family photos. Suzie on accessories: "Accessories are important and can add that perfect touch like a scarf, little boys hat, or knee socks for little girls." I personally love to search etsy for unique accessories to make an outfit unforgettable. This does take a little bit of planning, as you can't shop etsy the night before a photo shoot and get everything delivered to you in time. So... plan ahead. :)

5. DO plan. Look up those pose ideas on Pinterest, research amazing locations (just steer clear of railroad tracks - too cliche), and definitely plan outfits. Photo shoots are not something that you can usually wing, and it turn out okay. On the day of the shoot, you want everyone to be comfortable and relaxed, which to me means one thing: PLAN IT ALL OUT, SISTA. If you are reading this blog, then you are on the right track with the planning.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

10 Common Mommy Guilts Turned Mommy Mantras

Mommy guilt. Although not partial to mothers, parents are affected by this phenomenon from day 1 (sometimes even before that!!!), and the verdict is still out on if it ever goes away. The positive news is that if you suffer from mommy guilt, that's a pretty good sign that you are a caring parent because you are even worried in the first place.

I decided to turn to my friends for the reasons they felt mommy guilt. I'd like to thank each and every one of you for sharing what makes you feel guilty as a parent - I know sometimes it's hard to verbalize and almost makes you feel worse. I was amazed by the sheer amount of responses I got - y'all, mommy guilt doesn't mess around, nor is it partial to one group of people versus another! Mommy guilt is an equal opportunity employer.

I'm big into positivity these days, and I truly believe that the way that you think about things has a direct relationship to how things turn out. So I took 10 of the most common mommy guilts that I heard and gave them a new more empowering spin.

1. I have to take my child to daycare. My child learning to be independent of me and making new friends.

2. My child is an only child, and I'm afraid he's lonely. My child will learn to be fiercely creative. 

3. I'm not breastfeeding my child for whatever reason. I feed my child with love, and because of my struggles with breastfeeding, I truly cherish the moments I feed her. 

4. We don't have money for all the new, neat toys. My child will not be dependent on affluent things to live happily. 

5. I divorced/left my child's father and am remarrying. My child will have an additional set of adults (stepfather and step grandparents) to love and teach him. 

6. I have to put my child in the bouncer for 15 minutes while I prep dinner/check email/shower, and she's not happy about it. My child is learning to play by herself.

7. I'm having a new baby, and I'm feeling guilty about sharing my love with another child. I am giving my child a friend for life by giving him a sibling. 

8. I have to work and feel like I'm missing out on things with my child. I am teaching my child the importance of work ethic and showing him that you have to work in order to get something. 

9. I say "no" to things that my child wants or things my child wants to do. I am teaching my child that she can't always get everything she wants. 

10. I'm a stay-at-home mom, and there are some days I hate it. I am so involved and dedicated in raising my children that some days I need a well-deserved break, just like someone who works a traditional job needs a vacation. 

Next time you feel a mommy guilt rearing it's ugly head, blast it out with a positive mantra. There's always going to be something that we feel bad about as a parent, and we have to be positive and confident that we are doing what's best for our kids.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Five Ways to Get the Upperhand with your Power-Hungry Kiddo

Here's a little something I have learned about serving the 0-3 population and their sweet families: often times, I am managing behaviors as much as I am managing their communication. I truly think that at the ripe young age of 2, behavior and communication are completely intertwined.

Think about it. If you are a little cherub angel baby, there are few things under your control. You might be finding your voice and not yet figured out the enormous power behind the word "no." You might not have figured out yet that simply closing your mouth and deciding not to eat whatever mom and dad are giving you will make everyone go crazy. But as you figure out that your actions (or lackthereof) warrants a reaction (good or bad) from your surrounding people, most kids' little wheels... they start a-turning. POWER.

Power in social terms is defined as "the ability to influence the behavior of people."

Now, think about the different things that toddlers sometimes do.

Cram a crayon in their mouth and then look at mom with a rainbow-colored smile.
Refuse to eat anything but peanut butter and jelly.
Insist on kissing every. single. stuffed animal. TWICE. before. bed. :)
Saying "no".... to everything. Even things they mean to say "yes" to.
Throwing a cup full of juice on the floor. Hell, throwing anything on the floor. Repeatedly.

The *speech therapy* version of this looks like this:

Not wanting to finish an activity.
Not wanting to hand over a book.
Not wanting to end a preferred activity (like bubbles).
Throwing toys on the ground.

All of this is done, at some level, to see what kind of response they will get from whatever adult presence is around.

Now, depending on the kiddo, things can get sticky. Sometimes, kiddos are unable to communicate and therefore, behavior is inevitable. But regardless, most of the time, families are looking for relief in the everlasting battle of WHO is in control, WHO has the power?

The answer should ALWAYS be: the adult. The adult is in control; the adult has the power.

(Editor's note: This is speech therapist Tara, not mom Tara.)

So, what to do about that? How do we prepare ourselves for this battle over power?

Five Different Ways to Get the Upper Hand with your Power-Hungry Kiddo

Not all of these can be applied at once, and not all will work. These are just suggestions that are tried and true during my therapy sessions and that have been applied by my families and seem to work.

1. Ignore the bad, and celebrate the good. What this looks like: Kid throws toys on the floor, or puts 5 trillion stickers on the wall. You keep your cool and IGNORE. As soon as the kid picks up the toy or stops putting stickers everywhere, you PRAISE. "Wow, I LOVE how you are picking up those toys, you are such a good boy." In the instance of the stickers, praise whatever they do afterwards that is NOT the sticker situation. So, if he loses interest and starts playing with the cars... "Isn't it fun to play with cars? Those cars are so awesome!" If you stop reacting, the bad behaviors might escalate, but they should eventually go away.

2. Set guidelines, and stick to them. If your rule is not to throw toys, and he has thrown every toy on the floor of the kitchen in protest of something, then you calmly go with him, hand-over-hand, and have him pick up every. single. toy. Every. single. time. He will hate it. You will hate it too, but you will be cheery about it. Sing the dang clean up song the whole time if you have to.

3. Be consistent with all caregivers. Guess what? If mom does it one way, and dad does it another way, your smart little power monger will figure that out in 2 seconds flat, and everyone will lose. So, try try try your hardest to be on the same with all caregivers, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters, nannies, anyone who is ever supposedly "in charge."

4. First, then strategy. This is the technical term for bribery. You pair a preferred item or task with a non-preferred item or task. The non-preferred task is reading a book. The preferred task is trains. It goes like this: "Ok you little angel you. FIRST we are going to do book. THEN we are going to do trains, ok?" Kid fusses. "Oh that makes me so sad. Do you want to play with the trains?" (Parent dangles train to remind the kid how much he loves said train.) (Kid indicates that train is still what he wants to do.) "Ok GREAT, then let's do book first. THEN train." If book does not happen, train does not happen. The end.

5. Give choices. This is my favorite. It gives the facade of control to the kiddo when really you are the one controlling the choices. For example. All your kid wants to drink is chocolate milk. But that isn't a choice, sorry. "You can have juice or regular milk. Those are your choices but YOU get to choose!" They think they have control but you have controlled the choices. Win/win.

Here's your cheat sheet. You're welcome!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why I Don't Work Out for Me Anymore

Newsflash: My own personal desire to be more healthy is not motivating enough to actually do so. Or else I wouldn't be in this constant predicament of wanting to lose about 15 lbs.

.... But there are a lot of things I have proudly done for myself.

I went to college. I modeled. I selectively clean obsessively (you like how I put "selectively" so my husband can't read this and call me a LIAR?). I write. But I have currently lost the will to really perfect my body to a point to where I am confident like I used to be.

Maybe it's the lack of sleep. Maybe it's the enormous amounts of laundry (WHERE does it COME from?). Maybe it's that sometimes I'd really rather spend time with my baby and husband, sleep, or read a dang magazine.

But lately, I just don't want to workout for me anymore.

So instead I'm doing it for my daughter.

I don't want her to feel the way that I did when I was younger.

I remember when I got my school picture back in 3rd grade, I hated the way I looked. Hated it. Down to my orange and purple striped shirt and my above the knee legging shorts. I was convinced that my head looked too small for my body.

I remember my friends telling me after 5th grade was over and gone, "maybe next year you'll get a boyfriend, Tara, maybe next year." and I secretly really, really hated them for saying that because it made me feel like I wasn't pretty enough.

I remember being obsessed (OBSESSED) with the folds under my armpits. As a 9 year old. I felt like I was the grossest person alive.

I remember dreading going prom dress shopping because I hated the way I looked in a dress.

I remember being called thick in college and thinking to myself "yea... that's NOT a compliment you jerk!"

I remember some rude frat guy on the bus getting bent out of shape about something and calling me a "fat b!tch" - not because I was (I actually weighed 30 lbs less then than I do now), but because he knew it would hurt me.

I remember doing every fad diet you can think of, starting early on. Atkins - check. Weight watchers - check. Vegetarianism - check. The All-Chicken diet (really?!?!?!?!) - check. The master cleanse - check. Slimfast - check.

I remember going to kickboxing classes 2 x a day 6 days a week and not eating. For like, 5 months.

I remember everyone complimenting me on my weight loss and wondering if anyone knew the extremes I went to to get where I was.

I remember a guy I dated for over a month commenting while I was eating some chips at a bar that that was the first time he'd ever seen me eat anything.

I remember limiting my calorie intake to 500 calories a day, and still feeling out of control and gross.

This issue with my body image (and some raging cases of disorderly eating)... it certainly didn't have anything to do with my rearing. I came from a healthy, loving family. I think it's just in my head. I'm certainly not proud of it. I certainly don't wish to think this way.

But I feel myself going back down the path of this negative body image.

And I DO NOT want that for my beautiful daughter Beulah. I don't want her to see that side of me. and I certainly don't want her to feel that way about herself. So I need to make it go away.

I don't want my daughter to know what a calorie is at age 6.

I don't want my daughter to know what the word "fat" is or feels like to be called.

I don't want my daughter to know me as anything other than a confident and happy mommy.

So, no. I'm not working out for me right now. I'm working out for my daughter.... because I want to be a better woman and not expose her to this issue.

I want her to know me as maybe not perfect, but confident.

I want her to know me as maybe not perfect, but active.

I want her to know me as maybe not perfect, but healthy.

I want her to know me as maybe not perfect, but happy.

So, she can follow in my footsteps. That is why I'm working out.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Giving Up Grudges

In celebration of Lent, each year people give things up -- meat, alcohol, Facebook (all of that is crazy talk, wink wink). One year, I gave up bagels and Dr. Pepper. Another year, I gave up Chipotle (that was a tough year). That same year I also gave up sweets. Although the sacrifice was great, I also greatly benefited from this hard work. In high school and college, I'm ashamed to admit that Lent was more of a weight loss scheme than any kind of religious act.

So, a couple of years ago, I decided to rethink what I was going to "give up." Everything I could think of had some kind of secondary personal gain. I started thinking about what I could give up that would make more of an impact, something less tangible. A real sacrifice.

At the time, I had several grudges, thankfully not many - friendships gone awry due to me being a jerk or them being a jerk, it didn't really matter who was at fault. I decided to give up grudges. What did this look like? It might have looked like an email or a phone call to say hello and genuinely asking how things were going, to say 'I know we haven't been acting like friends in awhile.' It might have looked like lunch or dinner to rekindle a friendship. It might have looked like an unaccepted apology.

Since the year I gave up grudges, I have made a point to not make enemies. I apologize when I need to, or even sometimes when I don't need to, in order to keep important relationships right. I'm not saying I'm perfect, because I'm definitely not. But I do feel proud of my take on Lent, and I encourage you to think about what you could do during Lent that could make more of an impact than just giving up coffee or going through the drive-thru.

Monday, March 3, 2014

How to Turn Your Baby into a Bookworm

When you look at your 1, 2 or 3 year old, you may not be thinking about them reading in a couple of years, but there are things we can do as parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents/amazing nannies to help develop pre-literacy skills in our little angels.

Now, I am not saying that I read to my child every night - I am not that good at what I do (being a mommy) yet. But I aim to, and there are reasons why I do so.

1) Find a time in your day where you always read. Some people do it before bed. This doesn't work out with our routine, because Boo is usually a fussy monster by 5:45, so we like to read after her afternoon nap.

2) Find books that have simple, bright and stimulating art. We love Eric Carle books, but there are many other good choices.

3) You don't have to read what each page says, but IF and WHEN you do, point to each word as you read it. That will get your kiddo looking at the words and putting together that those words are telling the story of the book.

4) As you are looking at each page, talk about what is going on in the pictures. Use simple language that is easy for your little book worm to understand. Point to pictures and tell your kiddo what they are.

5) Let your child hold the book. The tug-of-wars I have had over holding a book y'all.... are unreal. I don't know what it is about books but kids want to hold them, and they don't want anyone else to hold them.

6) Establish book-friendly behavior. Start with board books. These books are nearly indestructible, although never say never!!! If your youngin starts being rough with the book, tell him/her how sad that makes you that he/she is being rough with the book and tell him/her he/she can't hold the book if he/she doesn't treat the book correctly.

7) After you have had some structured time with reading the book, encourage your kiddo to look at the book by themselves. Have several sturdy books among their other toys.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

5 Developmental Toys for Toddlers (and How to Play with Them)

A couple things before we get started. A) this is speech therapist Tara speaking, not mom Tara. Two different hats. B) These are just suggestions and are definitely not an exhaustive list of developmental toys; these are just a few of my favorites C) these toys are only to be used under adult supervision -- duh. D) this blog post contains affiliate links, meaning if you were to click the links and it resulted in a purchase, I would receive a small commission.

It might come as a surprise to you, but your little cherub wasn't born knowing how to play. Now, pooping, peeing, and being as cute as a button--- yes, those are innate skills. But playing doesn't always come as naturally. As your child develops, he/she will go through various stages of play development. And as their play skills develop, so do their communication skills and physical skills. What this means is that your child will greatly benefit from playing with you. 

In the age of technology (read my thoughts on technology here.), I sometimes question if we as adults have forgotten the joy and importance of playing!!! These are some relatively common toys for toddlers that are easy to find, cheap, and can provide a lot of good developmentally-appropriate and stimulating play.

1. Melissa and Doug Transportation Puzzle  - This peg puzzle is relatively easy for little fingers to manipulate, and because the puzzle pieces are topped with these little pegs, your child gets fine motor development time in as well. Double whammy! Play suggestions: 1. Give choices (do you want the car or the bus?) 2. Sound effects it UP ("BEEP BEEP BUS", "WEE-OO WEE-OO ambulance", etc.) Kids often imitate sounds and noises before some words. 3. Play with the puzzle pieces as actual cars and make the sound effects ("vroom vroom", "crash!", etc.) 4. Vocabulary exposure. Point to each puzzle piece and say what it is.

2. Brown Bear Board Book - This book is awesome for a variety of reasons, but the reason kids like it is because of the sliding door on each page. This book is dang-near indestructible (but now that I say that, the next kid who plays with it will probably prove me wrong on that), and the pictures are bright and colorful. Play suggestions: 1. Knock on each door as you read each page. "Knock knock! Who's these? OPEN." (slide open the door) Repeat this for each page. 2. Animal sounds all day long!!! "Look! It's a yellow duck! QUACK QUACK! What does the duck say?!?!" 3. Introduce big/small by talking about it. ("Look! There's a little frog behind the door... (turn the page) WOW look now there's a BIG frog! Ribbit ribbit!")

3. Animal Bubbles - Bubbles make the world go 'round. They just DO. I use bubbles as a reward, a bribe, and as a way to break up therapeutic play with something a little more fun. Play suggestions: As a general rule, unless you want a holy mess on your hands, don't let your little angel do the blowing. 1. Start every blow with the phrase "ready set..... GO!" and encourage your angel to chime in too. 2. Count the bubbles as you pop them "1, 2, 3" 3. Say "pop" each time you pop the bubbles. 3. Ask questions - "Do you want a LOT of bubbles or a LITTLE?" "Do you want BIG bubbles or SMALL bubbles?" "Do you want the bubbles to go UP or DOWN?"

4. Fisher-Price Piggy Bank - I love this piggy bank. So many things you can do with it. 1. Talk about open/close, empty/full, in/out. "Open the door! Look there are NO coins inside. It's empty. Let's put some IN." 2. Make choices. "Which one do you want? The dog or the cow?" (or you could do colors because the coins have animals on them and they are different colors as well) 3. Work on following directions and basic prepositions. ("Boo, open the door and take the coins out!" "Put the coins inside ON TOP" 4. Animal sounds.

5. Mr. Potato Head - This is another classic toy that teaches children SO much - body parts, clothing, colors, etc. 1. Give choices. ("Which one do you want? EARS or NOSE?") 2. Ask them where their nose is. As they put on a nose, ask them where is THEIR nose? Where is MY nose? 3. Show them where all the body parts go, but also allow for a little creativity. Put some lips where the ear should go. See if your kiddo corrects you. "Uh oh! Look! The mouth doesn't go there! That's where the EARS go! I'm silly! Help me!" and have the kiddo put the mouth where the mouth belongs.

Don't feel like you have to sit and entertain your kiddo 24/7, but if you take a little time to help develop their play skills and SHOW them how to play with toys, your kiddo will reap the benefits. They will remember how you played with these toys and hopefully be able to play using the skills you taught them to play by themselves.