April 28, 2015
Super Cute and Smart Springtime Clothes
Yay, spring is here!! Even if it is still a little chilly and wet in your neck of the woods, we all know sun and warmth are just around the corner. But in the meantime, April and May showers are falling and chances are your little ones are eager to get outside and explore the outdoors. And wherever there are showers, there are puddles! Even if you’re not a little kid there is something very cathartic about jumping in a big puddle, so get out there and have some fun! The kids will get the giggles watching mom splash, and they’ll will want to join in on the fun. And let’s be honest, where there are puddles there is going to be mud. Just because they’re going to be muddy doesn’t mean they can’t look adorable while staying warm, dry and eco-friendly with these PVC-free options.
Why we love these
Since 1951 Marimekko has been designing some of the most iconic patterns and products. The 100% polyester water repellent prints are all so bright and cheerful you’ll definitely forget that its raining outside. The reflective arm bands make them easy to see in foggier conditions and the interior windflap, zip closure and snap flap ensures they will stay snug and dry.
Why we love these
Hatley’s child safe umbrella design is PVC-free, has a wooden handle sized for little hands and comes in the most adorable prints to match their other rain gear. Who wouldn’t want to wait for the bus with these super fun brellies?!
Abeko Rain Gear – Waterproof Sou’wester Children’s Hat
Why we love these
These lightweight, Oko-Tex certified rain hats are free of PVC, phthalates and other chemicals. Made in Sweden, their ergonomic fit will keep little heads dry and can even be worn over a winter hat on chillier days.
Why we love these
We all know the importance of dry feet, and what a cuter way to keep the wet away than with these adorable elephant wellies by CeLaVi. Made of natural rubber with fabric lining, these boots are suitable for boys or girls and come in three darling colors. A slimmer style ensures the boot won’t fall off while playing, yet its still wide enough for easy access.
Why we love these
These polyurethane splash pants by i play are lightweight enough to wear over your child’s pants, and offer an elastic waistband and anklebands to ensure a quick and easy on-and-off.
Pretend and Play Explorer Set
Kids are curious creatures and we all know the puddles and rain are great places to explore the creepy crawlers, especially worms! Let your little scientist loose, they’ll love being able to see who makes the earth their home!
Rainy Days and Mondays
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had that “preschool tummy ache” on Sunday nights. You know the feeling. It doesn’t hurt badly, but it’s a gentle rumbling that tells you something is happening. As an adult, my Sunday feeling has transferred to the pitfall called Monday mornings.
Most moms will agree that every Monday morning feels slightly overwhelming or like downright overload. As moms, we’re always running here, there and multi-tasking in our busy lives. Then we have our crazy weekends where it’s family fun sometimes on full tilt. Sunday night, you hit the brakes and it’s back to the weekly grind.
I don’t know if you’re like me in the fact that sometimes it’s hard to hit the ground running on Mondays. Oh how nice it would be to have the weekend feeling linger just a big longer. And thinking of my “To Do” list feels like moments ago it was only last Monday. Where does the time go?
Once the day starts kicking in and I, once again, get into the flow of it all. I jump into my Joy of Mom blogs, making posters for our friends on FB, and connecting with so many of you on FB and Instagram. I know and feel, we moms are not alone on this Monday morning feeling.
Last Monday, another mother took over. And I wanted to share this with you. It was Mother Nature. She was calling the shots. I woke up to a very rainy day in Chicago. This is absolutely my favorite weather because there is something so calming, cozy and nest-inducing about hearing the rain on the roof. The rain refreshing and renewing everything outside. And, that day, refreshing and renewing my feelings inside, too, and about Monday mornings.
Smelling the rain through my open window, I woke up happy, peaceful, in the moment, inspired…and most of all really, really grateful. As I looked at my hubby and son across the table eating their breakfast, I sipped a little coffee and felt, “What a precious time. This is what life is really about.” It might have been grey skies outside, but my heart was sunny yellow.
The day wasn’t about waking up and checking e-mails or schedules (as soon as I open my eyes!) I was in my jammies feeling blessed, overcome with joy and truly present in the moment. I also vowed to honor and welcome the new day and the new week. I knew Mondays were hard because I made them hard. And I needed to find a way to change what I had been doing all of these years.
I ask you moms to envision that every Monday is your version of a perfect rainy day. Breathe. Pause. Think of the things you’re grateful for in the moment. Begin your week with those thoughts and you’ll be off to the races.
Here’s to all the little things including the tiniest hand, smallest gesture and a lone raindrop.
Maybe we always remember them.
Here’s to a great week!
April 21, 2015
Flowers, Chocolate and Ahhh…. for Mother’s Day (and Everyday!)
Sometimes we just need a little “ahhh” moment in our life.
Maybe it’s a fresh bouquet of flowers. Or a box of melt-in-your mouth chocolates. Or a bottle of perfume that transports you to a lavender field in Provence.
I’d love to send flowers + fabulous curated gifts to every single busy mom out there for Mother’s Day. That’s why I’ve been on (an extensive) hunt for the perfect farm to table flowers! As many of our friends know, I haven’t had a vaca for 19 years. A few months ago, I was on a business trip to LA and my precious daughter (who’s a senior in college) was in LA with me, staying at our friend’s home.
While in LA, we drove a couple hours north to meet with a proprietor and his team from this lovely flower company in hopes to put together a special gift for you. As we drove onto the farm and walked up to the main barn, dust flew up everywhere from our tires and then our shoes. My daughter and I looked at each, smiled, and said without having to say a word (in that unspoken language we moms have with our kids), “Ahhhh… this may be just the right place to be in the moment, take a pause, and soak it all in.” and we walked in gratitude to the barn to meet our new friends.
I don’t know if it was mixture of dust and beautiful sun rays, sound of wood-planked steps, smell of fresh coffee, and not to forget the seriously fragrant flowers all around us – but we felt transported, and it all felt magical.
Everything was so beautiful, down-home, and oh so fragrant! We talked and talked, and walked the fields. Four hours flew right on by! I knew these were the farmers, the growers, to partner with and to bring you a special Mother’s Day gift. So, I’m partnering with our new friends at Stargazer Barn to offer farm-to-table flowers and curated treats. We call this the very special Joy of Mom collection.
From now until the week of Mother’s Day, you can enter to win a package of lilies, tulips and irises plus a special treat of curated artisan products like handcrafted chocolate, cookies, perfume, coffee, jewelry and many more things. And the first collection, for Mother’s Day with feature my first book, The Joy of Mom: Celebrating a Mother’s Love. Close your eyes for a second and imagine a whole year of lovely things delivered to your front door! (I am so there!!)
Personally, I love to imagine our moms out there finally finishing the afternoon rush of picking up kids, shuttling them to soccer practice and dance rehearsals and then coming home to a box on their front step. There it is! What is it? For a second, you hope that it’s not some crazy widget your husband ordered from Amazon to fix the washer and dryer! Instead, you realize it’s for you! Fresh flowers, decadent chocolates, my first book, or other special curated treats! It’s a little well deserved reward for doing what you do every day and being so wonderful at it because shouldn’t Mother’s Day last all year long?
Stargazer Barn sent me a bouquet of lilies to celebrate this coming Mother’s Day, and I have to tell you, the photos simply don’t do them justice. They’re beautiful online, but they’re even better in person and at home, in a lovely vase on your own table. And I’m so happy and grateful that my book is also available alongside these heartwarming gifts of what I personally love – flowers and chocolate.
I wish you all the best of luck in winning beautiful flowers and curated goodies for a year and I hope you enjoy all of the lovely gifts Stargazer Barn has to offer just as much as I do.
From my heart to yours, Happy Mother’s Day!
April 17, 2015
Um, Om & Namaste
Don’t hate me, but I’m that mom.
I’m the one who has done the same yoga-Tai-Chi-Pilates class for 15 years, but I’m usually getting there just a bit late (dashing in from work!). I know that really stinks and please don’t judge me. I’m the one who quietly slips in the back of the room, tries not to disturb anyone, quickly folds into her mat and gets right into the “om.” I do this without allowing a few minutes prior to class to unwind from the day.
That’s why my “om” is sometimes a “um.” As in “Um, did I check that last e-mail before I ran into class?” And “um, I hope I remembered to leave Bob a note that dinner will be late tonight.” Or “um, should I even really be here. I have a million things to do.”
I’ll admit that it’s hard for me, like maybe it is for you, to suddenly get into unwind mode. As busy moms, our minds are like engines revving at 150 miles at all times. Did the homework get done? Is it time to pick up after soccer? Was that the start of a cold? Do we have poster board in the house and glitter? Did I remember to buy lunch meat? Did I eat lunch today or only chocolate?
In my case, my busy day includes working on this site so by the time I hit my mat in class, I can’t just get in the relaxing zone like someone turned a switch and set my life on calm. But I know it’s important for me as a mother and a person to breathe and feel balanced.
Would my “um” ever become a true “om?”
Then a funny thing happened to me the other day. I was actually five minutes EARLY for class. No, it wasn’t some strange eclipse of time, but I was running early and planning to really decompress on my mat prior to class when I found out that my class was actually over. I was so busy that I missed the notice saying that my favorite class had actually moved an hour early, so instead of five minutes early I was actually really late.
As my heart sunk, I knew that I needed that “me time,” so I signed up for the class that actually started in five minutes which was Soft Yoga. In other words, I would be stretching and relaxing for the next hour. Was this even legal?
Obviously, part of me didn’t think so, which is why a Plan B entered my mind. No, I would jump on a treadmill and read e-mails. But I didn’t go for Plan B. I stayed on my mat.
The class was refreshing, rejuvenating and absolutely required in my daily life of being so plugged in. In fact, I always wanted to try the class, but thought it wasn’t for me because my mind was too busy.
An hour later, I felt as if there was a switch on my body that was turned down. I was moving slower, breathing deeper and thinking in a way that could only be described as calmer. A few minutes later in the car, I didn’t immediately check my emails or make a phone call.
I sat there and decided to just breathe.
In and out.
Inspiring and Expanding Our Child’s Creativity
Blip. Beep. Ding.
These are the sounds coming from your child these days thanks to the iPad and video games that seem attached to their small hands.
In this day and age, kids are spending more time in front of the television and computer, and less time using their imaginations and exercising their creativity. While electronic devices have their place, it’s important we as parents encourage, inspire, and support their imaginations, development, and creative curiosities about our world. Even we need to be a little creative to expand our children’s imaginations and foster lifelong passions and perhaps even future careers.
I know you may be saying, “But Vicki, they don’t want to put those iPads down.” The key is that as Moms we must provide them with something even better, plus all the tools and supplies they need to spend their time doing something much more worthwhile as they create and explore.
Here are a few fun + creative outlets based on your child’s favorite interests:
For the future scientist:
This crystal growing kit is a fun and magical way to get your child interested in science. It has everything your kiddo needs to grow various colored crystal formations. Talk to them about different scientists who have discovered and invented things throughout history- the automobile, the telephone, the water purifier- and how important it is to think “outside the box” and experiment. Once the crystals take shape, they will make great room decorations or gifts for grandparents.
For the Future Artist:
Most children love to show their creativity through art. Set up a creative art corner somewhere in the house or even in the garage. At stores like Michaels, you can purchase an art easel, paper, paints and brushes. Be creative and buy colored pencils, tubes of paint and special markers. Reuse and repurpose empty boxes as canvases. All artists need inspiration, so take a walks outside or in the parks to find the “wow” in the flowers, a sunset, a beautiful old neighborhood tree. Encourage your emerging artist to take a photo on your phone and try to recreate the image. You can create a gallery in your child’s room or family room for all of the “masterpieces.” Make sure your child signs their artwork. These also make great gifts. Don’t buy Aunt Meg a birthday gift. Make her something special. Give her an Ashley Original.
For the Brainiac:
It might sound old-fashioned, but puzzles never go out of style. If your child likes concentration and focus games then work on a puzzle. Find a space on any table in the house, and create a “puzzle area”. They can work on the puzzle for 20, 30, or even 60 minutes a day. The slow progression toward completion will help them exercise their minds and patience. When they finally complete the puzzle, they can celebrate their triumph feeling proud and victorious.
For the future Spielberg:
Kids love making their own “trailers” of their lives. Most IPads have easy programs where you can do this as a family or your child can film friends or even the dog. The programs tell your child what kinds of shots are needed – action shots, close-ups, etc. – and they even get to write their own credits. It’s so much fun to share the trailers with family and friends. You can even post them, so grandma in another city can get a special treat.
For the Future Artisan:
Knitting is a great hobby that your children can work on each day after school. Little by little, they will slowly see a product come to life. They can make hats, scarves, gloves, tote bags, and so much more. The creative designs are truly endless. Find a little bit of help in “My First Knitting Book” or a knitting loom, both for beginners, and watch how quickly they grasp the concepts and techniques. We are thinking this could lead to a wonderful Mother’s Day gift!
For the Future Musician:
There are many benefits to children learning to play instruments, outside of the music itself. It improves academic skills as music and math are highly intertwined. Certain instruments, such as percussion, help children develop coordination and motor skills as it requires movement of the hands, arms and feet. The daily practice and slow progress refines discipline and patience, because learning an instrument teaches children about delayed gratification. It also boosts a child’s self-esteem through performances and talent advancement. For instance, if your child is interested in play the guitar, you can get them this “My First Guitar” teaching book and borrow or purchase a used guitar. Take notice in the level of interest they have in learning to play, and then decide if lessons or classes would be a good fit for your child.
It just takes a little planning, support and encouragement to make your child put down the electronic games and engage in other activities. Remember that as your child grows, his or her personality is taking shape and new interests will pop up.
Being exposed to new and exciting things are what ignites their creativity and curiosity. Creating the landscape for them to grown, learn, be inspired, and become the amazing person they are destined to be.
Suddenly that blip and bleep will be replaced by a little voice saying, “Thanks, Mom.”
April 9, 2015
Soundtrack of Your Life
My water just broke. Not that water.
I have tears in my eyes because I’m laughing that hard. A car full of teenagers just pulled up next to me and their jaws dropped open because I’m rocking out. I mean full out, and the girls next to me can’t believe that someone’s mother is singing in public.
My window is open on a warm spring day in Chicago and I’m singing along to Todd Rundgren. Yes, I might not remember my password for some online account or when I’m supposed to see the dentist later this month, but I do know every single word from a 1972 song called “I Saw the Light,” which was Todd at his finest.
“It was late last night.
I was feeling something wasn’t right
There was not another soul in sight
Only you, only you.”
What is it about music that truly brings you right back… My song from Todd was actually perfect for when I was in high school and even better many years later when I was rocking a sick baby at midnight.
What is it about music that soothes us and sends our spirits soaring? I don’t care if you’re on your third leg of carpool and you’ve driven the length of Chicago to Africa. A good song changes the entire day. With me, if it’s the right song, it’s as if my mind becomes a photo album and I remember the moments and friends who have made up the songs of my life.
A good song and suddenly, I’m transported back to high school or even middle school where Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” meant that someone was going to really get demolished that day in dodge ball. Even if the song annoyed me at the time, put on Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” on a particularly tough day and I could spit nails…or at least do that extra ten crunches at the gym.
The beautiful thing about music is that it lasts with us forever and it helps us call up the past. It’s an ode to memories. An ode to friendships, some which have lasted the test of time and others which have not. And an ode to the fabric of our life, and never losing the magic of it.
The other day, I saw a Mom with a carload full of elementary school girls singing Taylor’s Swift “Shake It Off” on the top of their lungs. Their minivan was literally bouncing up and down at that stop light, and everyone was singing, shaking and having the time of their lives. I know that 10 years from now when that Mom hears that Taylor song on some “oldies” station, she will instantly be transported back to when her baby was young and the car was loud.
Excuse me, I’m at another light and I need to sing now. Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” from 1974 just came on.
I don’t care who stars at this mom because momentarily I’m back in high school wondering if that cute boy like-likes me…or does he like-like my best friend…Ah, the exquisite torment of it all combined with such happy memories and a song that makes them flow.
Sing along with me:
“What’s the matter with your head, yeah….Come and get your love.”
Photo courtesy of Colibri Photo
April 3, 2015
Hope In a Jar
The call went out from a dance studio in the suburbs of Nevada. It was on one of those crumpled pieces of paper that kids leave in their backpacks for a week and then tell you must be done by morning. “Dear Parents,” the note read. “Please have your dancer bring a small gift, under $10, for their big or little sister this weekend. Thank you. These gifts mean so much to the girls and are a bonding experience.”
At this dance studio, the teachers match older girls who are 13, 14 and 15 with younger girls 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 as big and little sisters. The job of the big sister is to look out for the little at competitions and especially out of town trips where things can get stressful. In turn, the little sister knows that someone has “got her back.” I love the concept!
A little gift could only make the day brighter, right?
Of course, there were beautiful gifts traded on this special weekend including friendship necklaces where you split them down the middle and each wears one half. There were countless earrings given and tiny bottles of fragrant almond shampoos and jasmine body washes. One girl brought the biggest bag of Twizzlers ever known to man or womankind.
In the end, my favorite gift cost under $1.
It was literally hope in a jar.
That’s because it was a small glass jar, no bigger than what you might find baby food in. The bottle had a big brown cork on top. Inside, it was crammed filled with little white slips of paper and writing done in the neatest possible way in a green marker. In deep pink marker on a small white sticker stuck onto the glass jar, the 10-year-old gift giver wrote: “You Inspire Me. I Hope I Can Inspire You, Too!” So simple, so profound.
The jar was crammed with one inspirational message a day for the next two weeks. Here are a few of them and many made me tear up as I wrote this blog.
Happiness is yours!
You are beautiful and talented.
Be Yourself. Everyone else is taken.
Life is too short to be anything but happy.
Your smile lights up the whole room.
Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening.
Believe you can and you’re halfway there.
Don’t do it tomorrow. Do it today.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible.”
One of the messages was from Oscar Wilder, another from Teddy Roosevelt and yet another from Audrey Hepburn. How amazing that there was a history lesson going on here, too. Above all, these were beautiful, inspiring, heart soaring messages for girls and boys, moms and dads and everyone else of every single age.
This made me think that the best gifts in life are often so simple, and pure in their intentions. I also love this “hope in a jar” as a birthday present, a surprise gift to give to a loved ones during holiday get togethers (like this weekend!) to let you know how special they are to you, and even a gift to your own mother on Mother’s Day.
Right now, I want to close my eyes, pull a scrap out of that jar and live that message today. Here goes……… A smile is the best makeup any girl could wear.
I’m smiling widely.
March 26, 2015
by vicki, family, motherhood
Tips for Planning a Birthday Party on a Budget
My daughter’s best friend’s (since kindergarten) daughter paid me the ultimate compliment the other day. “Vicki,” she said in her ever so sweet (and tiny) voice with an ear-to-ear smile, “You’re so nice. I’m inviting you to my birthday party!”
As moms, we know that our child’s birthday party is huge deal for them (and for us!) My daughter is 22 years old and I remember (like yesterday) all the handmade invitations, personalized DYI bingo boards filled with sweet little stickers that marked all her favorite interests and things! (ballet shoes, puppies, kittens, love and friendship stickers).
To most children, there are 364 days of the year and that one very special me day!
How can we, as moms, make that day extra, extra special…on a reasonable budget? It’s true that with so many bills to cover each month, it’s hard to spend much on a birthday party. The good news is there are ways to throw that blowout birthday bash that will make your kiddos super happy without breaking the budget.
A few ways to “party on” without the high price:
Location, location, location: You don’t need to rent out an expensive trampoline center or reserve half a bowling establishment. Check out a beautiful neighborhood public park where you will have the room to have some great games, spread out, and end the party with some fun time on the playground surrounded by all your friends and family. Price: Zero. Seeing grandma on the swings: priceless.
Invitations: In the weeks leading up to the birthday, get the excitement going by making them. You can send out free Evites or a simple E-mail will do. Even better is asking your child to get creative and make a personalized invite on the computer that you simply print out and then hand out at school to save on postage. Facetime, Skype or call the older relatives who not only get an invite, but a special chance to say hello!
Guest list: You never want to leave anyone out, but sometimes it’s best (and necessary) to keep a party to just close friends and family. The less people you invite, the more you can keep costs down. Don’t ask your child to choose. As the mom, you can make a list of five friends and then ask your child if there is anyone else who needs to be on the list, but give them a limit. “You can ask two more friends,” you might suggest. I’d rather cut costs elsewhere than limit the guest list. The more the merrier!
Decor: If you go to the store and pile your cart high with balloons, streamers and piñatas, it can easily add. Remember that anything with a licensed character on it costs more. Try the dollar store for these things or vow to buy them once, carefully take them down and then reuse them. I’m still using the “Happy Birthday” banners that I (literally) bought 20 years ago! You can make your own piñata. You can also ask your kids to make colorful pictures to cover the walls for the party. Once, again, priceless artwork and personalized bday decorations!
Food: If you throw a “dessert party,” at 2 or 3 p.m., you can easily bypass lunch as guests come with full tummies. It’s also easy to make your own cupcakes and serve with ice cream and toppings. One great idea came from a mom who purchased 15 doughnuts when her daughter turned that age. She arranged them in a tower on a platter and then put sparklers in the middle instead of candles. (She did this outside on a hot summer day….I wouldn’t do this inside the house!) Make sure to cut up some fruit for the adults or kids who don’t want or need all the sugar. If you want a full meal then check the paper for coupons for the local pizza parlor. Ask another mom or dad, aunt or uncle, to pick up the food to avoid delivery charges. Or take aunt Chelsea up on her offer to make her world famous (aka family fave!) chili. You do the cornbread and the cake.
Drinks: Yes, milk and water are healthier, but there are kids who will beg for soda pop and juice. If they’re not there, most won’t miss them. If you serve large jugs instead of cans or boxes, you save money and create less trash, which is good for the environment. Most kids are very conscious of drinking water, so fill up big pitchers with your own purified water, add some (well washed) strawberries on top and other fruit and have festive and naturally fruit flavored healthy beverages.
Party favors: Stickers, puzzles, books, treats, an eco-friend craft, and so on make for great favors and can all be found at those discount or dollars stores. Also try small writing books, puzzles, a green craft or a tiny (safe) plant that’s eco-friendly. One mom gave a watering can and seeds, so the kids could grow their own flowers and veggies after the party.
Entertainment: Instead of hiring professional entertainment, gather costumes from friends and family to host a giant dress-up party. A second-hand store is a great resource for finding discount costumes, too. Pile all of the dress-up clothes in a trunk and let the kids’ imaginations run wild.
Set up different arts-n-crafts tables around the house for a crafting party. Have each child bring a white pillowcase to decorate with stamps, fabric markers, and patches for a fun activity.
Have the little ones (4 years and under) make an “all about me” book with handprints, drawings, and a Polaroid photos from the party. For the older kids, have them make popsicle stick photo frames to put their Polaroid party picture inside of as a keepsake.
Older kids also love making videos. Break the older kids into groups and give them a topic. Ask them to make their own “commercial” and then later you can have “screenings” of all the videos. Plus, they’ll love it if you send the videos to their parents.
You can also provide the kids with materials to make DYI bingo games. Instead of numbers on the board, use fun stickers of your child’s favorite characters and colors – such as baseballs, puppies, hearts, Sesame Street characters, and so on.
The important thing is the feeling of love and togetherness from a birthday party. It’s a gathering of friends and loved ones to celebrate the most special present of all time: Your child.
March 20, 2015
Joy of Mom’s Weekly Roundup
Your body’s reaction to water.
A sad loss. A wonderful man.
14 of Dr. Seuss’s Greatest Quotes. These are sure to make you smile!
These are gorgeous! Just in time for warmer weather.
You better get on it, California!
Wow, what a beautiful gesture for a heartbreaking situation.
Ha! Dads are awesome.
This little raglan is so adorable for Spring.
Oh, hello baby!
These are so cute for a little one.
For fur parents: Everyday items that are dangerous for pets.