Presence, Not Presents

December 16, 2015

Mom Kid Winter


As the holiday season has become synonymous with the shopping season, it helps to pause and remember what this time of year is about. Giving, family, love, children. And the gratefulness of it all…

A theme going around lately that we believe in is “Presence, Not Presents.”

Of course, we want to provide the best for our children and indulging them a bit at Christmas can be fun! We may rush to buy the toy that’s making the biggest buzz, or grab the latest American Girl doll and all her gear.

But the best gift you can give your children, whether toddlers or teens, is your time. Spend a day strolling around a museum. Take just one child on a lunch date. Make an intensive craft together.

As you share these moments together, whether chatty or quiet, you are building a bond that will last longer than the latest toy. When your child goes off to college, will she remember what present she got for Christmas in fifth grade, or the day she strolled around with just mom at the dinosaur museum? We bet that museum visit with you will be locked in her memory forever.

When your child becomes a parent, maybe those memories of special days with just mom will soak into her soul, and she will do the same thing with her daughter.

Because who needs presents, when you have your mother’s presence?

Finding Moments of Joy

December 9, 2015
family, inspiration, Uncategorized

Moments of Joy2


As the holidays approach, there are so many exciting activities that keep us busy as the days seem to whirl on by. Shopping for the perfect presents, planning lovely meals for your family, and decorating your home to feel extra warm and cozy. But as our to-do list grows there may be some days when our patience shrinks.

Christmas can be a time of hectic schedules and busy balancing acts for us moms, so we want to remind you that you can still find joy in places big and small.

Too much snow to shovel? There is joy in a toddler’s first little footprints in fresh fallen snow.

Kids home from college dumping all their laundry on you? There is joy in the fact that they still need you.

Getting up early so you can exercise before the kids go to school? There is joy in taking time for yourself so you can feel and be energetic for you and your children.

Run out of ribbons & bows while wrapping presents late at night? There is joy in having so many people to share gifts with.

Does the Christmas dinner menu feel overwhelming? There is joy in working over a hot stove as you cook a meal for your family made with love.

Does it feel like your baby is crying all the time? There is joy in that moment he stops fussing when you hold him in your arms.

Did your little ones trail flour and frosting all over your kitchen while baking cookies? There is joy in making memories that will last forever.

As you sink into the warmth of this holiday season, remember to wrap yourself in the love of these precious times. Sprinkle these little moments of joy into your heart and embrace the joy of the season with your family.

What Moms Are Thankful For

November 25, 2015
family, inspiration, motherhood

What Moms Are Thankful For - Joy of Mom


As mothers, our to-do lists stretch on over the horizon. Our heads swim with field trip dates and names of our children’s new best friends. We kiss boo-boos while simultaneously fixing dinner and scheduling a doctor appointment.

We just keep going.

That’s why, when Thanksgiving gives us a reason to take a moment and reflect, we eagerly let our brain slow from the constantly flurry of thoughts for just a moment. We think about what we are most grateful for, not only at this time of year, but each and every day.

We start to make a mental list:

  • We are thankful for that moment, just before our child wakes up, when she looks so warm and peaceful. Dreaming of the happiness that will surely find her today.
  • We are thankful for imperfections. How that one big “mistake” wasn’t such a big deal after all, and became yet another loving inside joke to our family’s history.
  • We are thankful for that first cup of coffee in the morning, with the promise that, yes, we can make it through this day, too.
  • We are thankful that we can all be together as a family this year for the holiday. If not in body, then in spirit.
  • We are thankful that our children are growing into loving, kind humans. That they will continue to make this world a better place.
  • We are thankful that we know that even though the world can be scary and unpredictable, we can always find love and support amongst our family and friends.
  • We are thankful for the friends who know us better than we know ourselves. Who can laugh when we share the latest hijinks of our children, and who can be there with a hug when we need to cry.
  • We are thankful for every moment we are able to share with our family. Looking past the hustle and bustle that comes from motherhood, we see a group of people who we can’t imagine life without. Our loves.

In that moment, we are truly thankful for the blessing that is motherhood. We close our eyes, take a deep breath, and say a prayer of gratitude. Because we know that the second we open our eyes again, we just need to keep going.

Good Eats Before Halloween Treats

October 30, 2015
family, recipes

tomato soup


With Halloween just hours away, we wanted to talk a little bit about how important it is to feed your little monsters and angels a nutritious meal before they head out trick-or-treating. We know that kids will come home with pillowcases and buckets full of candy, ready to separate them into categories and eat them all up! But before they do that, we want to feed them some good eats before their treats.

When we think of fall, we think of cozy, warm food. These recipes will warm up you and your kiddos before you head outdoors. They’ll also leave your little ones feeling satisfied, so that they’re not snacking on candy while they’re walking door to door.

This chili from Chew Out Loud is made in the slow cooker, so you can prepare everything in the morning. You won’t have to worry about cooking while you’re putting on your children’s wigs or applying vampire teeth. Once your stomachs start to rumble, just ladle it out of the slow cooker and you’re all set!

Sloppy joes are also a wonderful comfort meal before heading out. These healthy sloppy joes from Wine and Glue are packed with flavor and easy to make. If you want a fun twist on sloppy joes, be sure to stuff a sweet potato with the sloppy filling like Paleo Newbie does.

If you’re in a time crunch and you have leftover chicken in your fridge, this chicken stir fry is the perfect dish. It combines leftover chicken and loads of veggies to create a delectable, hearty meal!

Another time-friendly food is the quesadilla. Quesadillas are fast, and you can stuff them with vegetables! Depending on what your children like, try these caprese quesadillas from I Don’t Go to the Gym, or these black bean and corn quesadillas from Babble.

And here’s one of our top picks: simple and timeless toasted cheese served with warm tomato soup. You can choose the type of bread (I love seeded breads from Whole Foods) and cheese your family likes and tailor the recipe to them. In a time-crunch and can’t make the soup from scratch? Try either Trader Joe’s or Pacific low-sodium soups (a lot of brands of tomato soup are sodium heavy!).

We know holidays are fun, and we want them to be! But we also know our little ones are continuously growing and need constant nutrition, especially with candy rolling in. And as moms, we want to make sure that the candy they’re bringing home is safe to eat. Don’t be afraid to put restrictions on some types of candies—they have plenty of candy to eat, we never want to take any chances. Happy Halloweening! We wish you a day of fun family time and great trick-or-treating!


Embracing Your Child’s Self-Expression at Halloween

October 29, 2015
family, inspiration


With Halloween in just a few days, our kids are putting on pirate eye patches, witches hats, and ballet slippers. Halloween is festive, fun, and all about expression. It gives children a chance to pretend to be something different than they are. It could be something they aspire to be, something they love to do, or something they think is just plain fun.

But what do you do when your child’s Halloween choice might not be what you expected? In this case, a boy wanted to dress up as Elsa for Halloween. Dad’s response: “Game on!”

The story of this Dad unflinchingly supporting his son is such a beautiful act of love and kindness. Our young children are delicate, and it is our job to provide a strong support system of unconditional love. Let them know they can be whatever or whoever they want, and that we will always be there for them. Anything they want to be is beautiful!

The comments on this father’s Facebook page were overwhelmingly positive. Many families shared photos of their boy dressed as a princess, or their daughter as Spider-Man. It is wonderful to see so many families embracing the fun of Halloween and letting their children be whatever they want!

It’s easy to worry that other kids might tease, and to prevent this hurt, you may think to discourage your child’s unconventional costume. But it is so beautiful to let your child feel confident about their choice and that they have the ability to express themselves.

They are being bold and brave – join them in their creativity! Have fun and soak up the love of this special season and moment of childhood! The moments, these moments, can make all the difference.

Eco-friendly Halloween Costumes

October 9, 2015
DIY, family, links i love

Eco-friendly Halloween Costumes - Joy of Mom


The costumes. The trick-or-treating. The classroom parties. They all speak ahhhh autumn! And this beautiful, festive, magical time of year!

The only thing I’ve never been a fan of are the pricey costumes and harmful materials associated with many of them – which can quickly turn a mom’s excitement into stress. What I have always been a fan of is homemade, DIY costumes! Especially when they’re eco-friendly. Costumes for your little ones can be just as cute (or cuter!) when they’re eco-friendly, safe for our little ones, and made with love!

Here are a few faves:

One: We love how the parent utilized a push car in this Back to the Future costume from Inhabitots! Including your child’s push car into the costume makes for an easier evening of trick-or-treating while keeping the look adorable. The rest of the costume is made out of recycled cardboard boxes. Love!

Two: This superhero costume, also from Inhabitots, is equal parts adorable and eco-friendly. The cape is made from leftover felt and embroidery thread, the skirt uses leftover tulle and ribbon, and the arm cuffs come from Starbucks coffee sleeves (brilliant!). Underneath her costume, she’s wearing a t-shirt, sweatpants, and winter boots. We love this look!

Three: Okay, there’s “cute,” and then there’s “really, really cute.” This DIY Fireman costume from POPSUGAR falls under the “really, really cute” category. This firetruck is made from a cardboard box, and the wheels are painted paper plates. We are in love with this idea!

Four: This precious sailor costume from The Honest Company is made from materials found inside the family’s home! The dress, tights and shoes were already in her wardrobe. The neck tie is made from a white flour sack dishtowel and the sailor hat is an easily-folded white sheet of paper. The telescope is a paper towel tube. So clever…

Five: Oh Happy Day has the most adorable snail we’ve ever seen! The items used in this costume are brown paper, glue, cardboard, a headband, Styrofoam balls, and ribbon!

Six: Okay, is this Harry Potter too sweet?! Courtesy of Love & Lion, this costume is made from khaki or blacks pants, a white button up shirt, and a knitted scarf and black glasses (click here for info on the knitting pattern). The mom used her eyeliner to draw Harry’s scar on the toddler’s head. Love!

We hope these costumes gave you some ideas to focus on saving money and the environment this Halloween! Just remember, anything you can re-use, recycle, or swap is considered eco-friendly! No need to break the bank for your child to look adorable, as you can clearly see above. Happy Halloween!

Favorite 5-Free Nail Polishes!

September 15, 2015
family, lifestyle, motherhood

Favorite 5-Free Nail Polishes! #joyofmom


A mom’s hands are priceless.

We use them to pick up our precious children and to wipe away the tears after tumbles and stumbles. Our hands are often the first touch of the day…and the very last.

As moms, we want to create the safest environment as possible for our little ones – and that includes the nail polish that we put on our busy hands!

Whether you can get away to the salon for a mani-pedi or you’re putting on a new coat of polish on the couch at night, fresh nails always seem to feel good!

As both a mom and consumer, I’ve always been passionate about what’s safest, healthiest, and best for our families health and well-being. And when in doubt, I do my homework – and then some. I’ve been concerned about the toxins in regular nail polish including toluene, which is added to gasoline and is a solvent. This particular toxin can wreak havoc on your respiratory tract and eyes. Many polishes also contain formaldehyde, which is not only flammable, but has been classified as a carcinogen. If your polish has DBP in it or dibutyl phthalate, you’re wearing a substance known to cause hormonal imbalances, liver and breast cancer. In fact, DBP is banned in Europe.

The good news is that there are polishes out there that are natural and toxin-free.

A few of my favorite 5-free include:

Zoya: Zoya was voted the longest lasting nail polish in Lucky Magazine’s Green Guide and a Top 10 Nail Polish by I love their colors including deep reds, subtle pinks, natural tones. Some of my faves for fall are Rue, Rowan and Normani.

SuncoatThis company has been around since 2001 and creates their polishes with a water base and no toxins. They use mineral pigments and natural ingredients instead of chemicals, so they are free of acetates and parabens. They even have peelable polish, so you don’t need remover.

Sheswai: This is clean, fabulous polish with beautiful bamboo toppers. The colors are sweet as their names! Just a few… so pretty, for real and nice. They have the most perfect violet and even an awesome yellow.

Piggy Paint: I love businesses created by moms! Piggy Paint is a great choice when our little ones want their nails done just like Mommy’s! Melanie Hurley created this brand that is “natural as mud.” Her polish is water-based, non-flammable, non-toxic, and cruelty-free. Say goodbye to harsh, smelly chemicals and hello to mommy daughter mani pedis and Piggy Paint!

WatercolorsThis line from Honeybee Gardens is also a water-based polish formula that’s odorless and doesn’t include synthetic food dyes. There are 25 amazing colors from blue to red and even black. It’s free of formaldehydes, toluene and dibutyl phthalates.

Whether this is your time to escape or you have a set of small fingers lined up next to yours, enjoy the guilt-free fun and treat those busy hands!

Tips For a Successful School Year

September 1, 2015
family, lifestyle, motherhood

Tips For a Successful School Year! #joyofmom


There’s just something about seeing the bright yellow school bus rolling down the street and little ones excitedly (or nervously) waiting for it to arrive to climb aboard. Even through it’s been many years since my kids have taken those sweet bus rides, I warmly smile as I see the bus approaching on my early morning walks in my neighborhood, and I feel for the mamas who have a whirlwind of emotions during this time of year. School is just back in session. As much as it’s an exciting time for both parents and their kiddos, it can also be a bit stressful. As a mom of three, I’ve gone through many back-to-school days that taught me about how to help my children through this special and all-important transition time of year.

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned:

Children Handle Change Differently: One child might welcome a new class filled with faces that will soon become close friends. Another child might withdraw because they’re shy and have trouble meeting new peers. As a mom, it’s important to take special note of how each one of our kids embrace and handle the new year. The shy child might need a play date on the weekends with a good buddy. Or perhaps you might spend a little more time asking about the new classmates, giving examples on ways they can say hello and meet new friends.

A New Teacher Can Be Your Best Resource: Although teachers themselves are easing into the new school year, I’ve found they warmly welcome e-mails from parents. This is a great time to introduce yourself and ask if perhaps the teacher needs any help in the classroom, if your schedule permits. If you have concerns and insights you’d like to share for them to better know your child and make the transition period a little smoother, it’s a good time to share this or ask to schedule a quick conference chat. Perhaps your daughter had a very hard time with math last year and feels a little bit reluctant about the subject. Teachers need to be aware so they may best work with your child and their special needs or areas of attention that may need a little extra encouragement or TLC.

Don’t Complain About Homework: As Moms, we set the tone. When you pick up your child on a busy day, it’s fine to hope there’s not a lot of homework because it takes away family time. Just remain positive about it even if your young one is swamped. A project on the Grand Canyon? You say: “Great! Let’s go collect some rocks. That will be fun.” Have to draw a map of the states? “Cool. Let’s make a family list of what places we want to visit.” Your enthusiasm is contagious!

Make The Little Things Easier: Please don’t sweat the small stuff. Pack those lunches the night before. Choose their favorite (healthy) lunches to prepare. Don’t immediately jump into carpooling. A little one-on-one time to start the school year can make a world of difference. In other words, make it as uncomplicated as possible to have a smooth start.

Send Sweet Surprise Notes: There’s nothing better than getting a happy “I love you” note in a lunchbox! A sweet, simple note to let your child know you’re thinking about them can be just the warm hug they need while away at school. If you have little ones still at home, they can draw special pictures along with your note. A touch of home is so welcome especially during the first couple weeks of the new year.

Moms, you’re the permanent and most influential teacher in your child’s life. If you teach your little ones to love school and welcome new adventures, then your newly minted first or third grader (or any grade) will go out there with the best of attitudes.

Here’s to our kids having an amazing school year! And to the moms having one, too!

Popcorn & Pics: Favorite Family Home Theater Flicks

August 28, 2015
entertainment, family

Summer is coming to a close as fall is in the air, and, for many of us, school has begun. It’s my favorite time of year. One where I just to want to pause… and soak it all in. The magic of moments. Family moments… One of our favorite things to do on a weekend evening is curl up on the couch with loved ones, make popcorn (the old fashioned way) and watch a fabulous movie. Not a fan of popcorn? Make your family some of our favorite movie night-worthy snacks!

In honor of back-to-school season, here are some of our school themed family home theater flicks.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) Matthew Broderick stars in this iconic film, as a young student who takes his infamous day off while trying not to get caught. His jealous little sister, played by Jennifer Grey, is simply classic.

School of Rock (2003) Jack Black stars as Dewey Finn, who poses as a substitute teacher at a formal elementary school. He doesn’t teach normal school lesson plans, but rock music, making a band out of his “fake” students. Jack’s passion for music and, ultimately, his students beautifully shines through.

High School Musical (2006) Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens take the lead in this Disney favorite. Two teens who come from completely different worlds are brought together through their love of song and dance in this memorable musical.

Rudy (1993) Sean Astin portrays Daniel ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger, in this inspirational film. Rudy was  told he couldn’t do anything, especially play college football. But he is dedicated to overcome the obstacles and finally play for Notre Dame. Talk about a heartwarming film.

Miracle (2004) starring Kurt Russell as coach Herb Brooks, tells the incredibly true story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. The ultimate David versus Goliath.

Freedom Writers (2007) Hilary Swank takes the lead as the inspirational Teacher-Erin Gruwell. Who takes it upon herself to teach her “at-risk” students about acceptance, tolerance, and dedication. So beautiful, powerful and inspirational, on every level. (This film is PG13 and more appropriate for older children.)

To Sir With Love (1967) Sidney Poitier stars as Mark Thackeray, the ultimate teacher who must transform high school students from London. A beautiful classic.

Happy viewing! And, most importantly, happy viewing with your precious family!

xo, Vicki

Photo courtesy of imdb

Popcorn & Pics: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

August 14, 2015
entertainment, family

Popcorn & Pics: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. #joyofmom


This is a special Date Night edition of Popcorn & Pics where we recommend the perfect, get out of the house, couples night out film for Mom and Dad. The modern day update of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. provides action, two charismatic leading men, beautiful women in gorgeous vintage fashions and all of the thrills of a James Bond film with a hip throwback vibe. Based on the 1964 series, the film directed by Guy Ritchie stars Henry Cavill (the new Superman) and Armie Hammer in a 1960’s set plot. CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Kllya Kuryakin must join forces against a mysterious criminal organization.

Behind the Scenes: Turing a beloved vintage TV series into a new movie isn’t an impossible mission. You just need two irresistible leads like Hammer and Cavill. Six foot five Hammer (“Social Network”) says that he wouldn’t make a good spy in real life. “I’m too tall. It makes it hard to blend in. Plus, I find it hard to keep a secret.”

Fun Fact: A sequel is already in the works.

Photo courtesy of Twitter

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