Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hostess Gifting

I've been in full on holiday prep. I have made a few of our gifts and have finished Christmas pajamas for the kids. (The hubs and I don't match them. I'm pretty sure he'd revolt if I asked him to!) Now to decorate our tree, plan our big meals, and get gifts wrapped. I can't believe it's almost here!

One of the things I've been thinking about a lot has been holiday hostess gifts. We don't have a ton of parties but I recently saw a Facebook post asking for ideas and it's continued bouncing around in my head. I thought I'd share a few of my favorites.

  • Homemade scrub in a mason jar. I got some brown sugar scrub as a gift and love it. It smells good and makes my feet so much smoother. I also recently made a sugar scrub for my face with white sugar and coconut oil. Put these in a cute little mason jar with ribbon around the top and throw it in a gift bag = super easy and a nice little pampering gift for your hostess. 
  • Holiday hand towels. This set or this one from Target is cute and would be lovely to receive.  And they are under $5! Plus you know you'll be in Target anyway!
  • Always, a bottle of wine. I like Salmon Run wines and I'll never say no to a Gewurztraminer. Dr. Frank's is my favorite.
  • A holiday table runner. My holiday gift for my son's teachers are Target dollar bin table runners that I appliqued Christmas trees on to. It's (almost - he's got two teachers) one of a kind and looks like it cost more than $3. Shop at craft fairs or again check out Target's selection. 
  • A candle. When I first met my mother-in-law, I brought her a candle with the cutest mini chalkboard on top with "thank you" written on it. It was small, she didn't need to open it right away, and it was practical. This one is a pretty option.
  • A tree ornament. If you have an inside joke or share a common love for something, find an ornament that reflects that and gift that to your hostess. Every time she sees it, she'll think of you!
  • Notecards. I love writing notes and always welcome a new set of notecards, especially when they are a high quality paper. 
  • For a friend who is still a kid at heart, one of the under $10 lego sets is such a fun idea. Again, put it in a gift bag for them to open later. Include a little note about wanting them to have some fun post party. 
What are some of your favorite hostess gifts?

Friday, September 8, 2017


I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea – and the practice – of team work lately. Having worked in student affairs for 15+ years, I think I took it for granted that people generally knew how to develop a team. Sure, we all had student affairs bosses that didn’t work to create a team. But those were more the exception than the rule.

Now, I do a bunch of smaller things. And although the policies and practices highlight a “team”, that’s not truly actualized. It’s not to say that some people aren’t doing it. I’m certain they are, as some people just have that skillset and desire. But generally, it doesn’t seem to be a priority. There aren’t rewards for cohesion. There isn’t training on developing a team atmosphere amongst the people you recruit into an organization.

I’m a firm believer in the need to build trust and teamwork, especially between hierarchal “officers” in an organization. You need to believe in the people above you. You need to know they are invested in you. As a manager or leader, you need to invest in, support, and challenge those below you. Ideally, as a manager or leader, you’ll work to ensure your supervisees know each other and can support and challenge each other. That can be difficult - but is not impossible – when you are decentralized.

How do we reward teamwork? How do we clearly identify teams that are working cooperatively and are invested in each other? How can we better train teams – especially in part time or volunteer roles – to challenge and support each other? What guidance and rewards do we give to a team leader who goes out of their way to build a supportive, cohesive team?

I do know that every time I’ve been in a non-functioning team or with a leader who is unable, either though desire, time, or skill, to develop a proper team I have learned a little bit more of what not to do. I know I love bringing people together to talk about their strengths, goals, and how they can work collectively. I know that leadership means regularly checking in, questioning, and committing to helping others advance.

I’m so grateful for my time in student affairs, as it let me work with others to develop teams. It allowed me the opportunity to serve as a part of strong, functioning, involved teams. It taught me teambuilding – how to bring people together. I hope I can impart that gift for others.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Being an Ally

Let's talk for a minute about allyship. (Yeah, I'm creating words - sue me.) I've been thinking a lot over the last few months - and especially these last few days - on how I can be a better, more vocal ally.

Being an ally - by definition - means "to unite or form a connection or relation between". Generally I'm pretty open and accepting with people who might be a different race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation than me. I've probably grown the most in my allyship (see, it's a word now. I've used it twice!) with those who identify as LGBTQ. I have a number of people I care deeply about who identify as LGBT and I see no reason they should be treated differently from me due to one part of who they are. The area where I've identified needing continual growth has been my allyship with those who identify as black. Not because I don't sympathize or have people I care deeply for who identify as such. But I haven't been as outspoken as I could be. I need to use my white privilege to challenge racial bias.

There are a few things I'm committed to doing in the next few months to be a better ally.
  1. I will talk with the director at my son's school about adding more diversity in toys and curriculum. I'd love to bring in a preschool entertainer who can talk about race and acceptance. 
  2. If I hear something at the booth next to me or in line at the store, I will find a way to say something. I'll be polite but direct. This will role model for my kids how we stand up for others and value diversity.   
  3. I will make the time to read at least one book that will enhance my understanding or ability to be an ally. (Recommendations? Leave them in the comments PLEASE!!)
  4. I will do at least one fundraiser for the ACLU. This is already in progress. If you're interested in helping, shop here. I'm hoping to do another in the future!
I've really struggled with being able to do all that I want while balancing being a wife, mother, crafter, and small business owner. But now is when we need to step up. My kids are watching. We can't allow those who don't value the mosaic of our country to win.

Monday, August 14, 2017

When Hate Visited Charlotteville

I stood in Panera on Saturday reading the news out of Charlottesville on my phone, on the edge of tears. Tears for my country. Tears for my friends who are brown and black who live each day worrying about what their countrymen might do to them. Tears for those soldiers of color who fight for the right of those white supremacists to protest. As if they really have a legitimate right to protest things being a little more equal. 

I never fail to be astounded by the awfulness of some people. People who fail to see humanity. People who fail to see the gifts black, brown, native, and others have given to our country and world. Music, science, social justice, sports, math and other areas advanced by the sharing of those gifts. 
Retrieved from Google 8/14/17

More than anything I want my kids to see people for who they are. Yes they will see color but that is a small part of what makes a person tick. I was them to see the content of someone's character, to see equality, to embrace differences, to lead by example. 

Although I care deeply for social justice, I also acknowledge I still have a lot to learn. The best way for me to make an impact right now is to listen. To not be defensive but to truly hear. To call out judgement and prejudice when I can - in both myself and others. To go beyond tolerance to love. 

Events like Charlottesville keep happening. And they will continue to happen until We the People stand up and challenge them. 

As white people we've sat back for too long. We may acknowledge the problem but have not been willing to be embrace discomfort enough to be part of the solution. It's not up to our black and brown brothers and sisters to solve this hate and discrimination. If it were that easy we'd truly live in a post racial society. No, it's on us. Let's wipe away our tears and our shock over what happened, roll up our sleeves, listen to our black and brown peers, and start working.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Oh Body Image!

Today was a tough day. Those body image issues reared their head today. I recorded a video this morning of some of my workout to check form. Watching it just dug into me because I saw the flaws, the parts of me that I view as too big, too imperfect, too not okay. Then this afternoon another thing came up with sizing a shirt, which left me in tears. I literally was laying on our family room floor (post workout mind you) crying because something wouldn't fit and I was so tired from feeling I can't have the same thing as everyone else.

I'm working on things. I'm working out daily. I'm eating better - not perfect by far but better. I cut out soda almost entirely. But it's a process and takes time. And today I just didn't hear the positive voice in my head. And not only does that hurt but I'm so conscious of my issues being evident to my kiddos. I want better for them than fretting about weight and not seeing themselves as enough. How do I ensure I don't pass on my issues to them? It's the question I turn over in my mind regularly.
This has nothing to do with this post!
I knew I needed to do something to help me remember the amazingness of my body. Because I know intellectually our bodies are pretty amazing. And I carried these two kiddos to term and delivered them both via Cesarean. Again, intellectually I know that's badass. Emotionally is another story.... so I sat down and created a list of what I like about my body. It was a good exercise; perhaps something I will add to as I get stronger.

The funny thing is, as I write this, American Housewife is on TV and the whole episode is about her body image issues. It resonates so strongly. We all have that experience, don't we? We don't like our thighs or our nose or our cankles. We think our hair is too curly or our breasts are too big. The voice in our head isn't always kind. I find it so frustrating.

I am also going to make a concerted effort to compliment others more. We all need to hear that we look good or that our outfit is beautiful. So I will spread that joy in hopes of helping someone else overcome the doubts they might be hearing in their head.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Introverted Parenting

I'm very much an introvert. I have consistently scored 19 out of 20 towards introvert on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I have known for a long time that coming home and having a little alone time was central to my well being. I like people. I just need quiet to quiet my mind.

I never realized how tough parenting - especially stay at home parenting - is when you are an introvert. I have, on occasion, felt like I quite literally do not have a minute to myself to just relax. As any mother knows, your bathroom breaks come with company.So, not exactly a "break".

I've been focusing on finding how I can successfully parent while still ensure I'm caring for my introvert self. Here are a few of the things that seem to help me out a little:
  • Hobbies - my self care has always been creating. I love to sew and more recently have taken up embroidery. I have my two machines set up upstairs and try to steal away as much as I can. I also have started doing watercolors and hand lettering. The great thing about these is I can do them downstairs with the kiddos. It gives me a few minutes of creating among the chaos of the day. 
  • Go to bed before my husband. I've heard it said that marriages where partners go to bed at the same time are happier. I don't know about that. I just know the extra little bit of time to unpack my day and get ready for bed ALL BY MYSELF is amazing for me. It makes me a healthier and happier person for him and the kids. 
  • Nap time is precious. Enough said. I am so glad my kids nap at the same time and give me a little time to recharge in the middle of my day. I'm pretty sure nap time helps me be a better mom from 4:30-8:30 each day. 
  • Volunteering. It sounds silly to say that the connecting with others feeds my introvert soul. But, it does. My volunteering for my sorority and for the greater sorority system is for me. It helps me to interact with adults and think about something other than Paw Patrol.
  • Connecting with other moms. I'm so blessed to have found my local MOMS Club and to have connected with some awesome moms via our playgroup. The random motherhood texts make you feel like someone else gets it. Again, you wouldn't think connecting is what an introvert wants; but we need connections as long as it's a bit deeper than the superficial conversation about weather. 
  • Target trips. They aren't paying me to say this (but hey Target, I would take a gift card if you wanted to send one!) but an evening outing to Target BY MYSELF is the greatest luxury in the world sometimes. Let's wander the aisles, touch all the fabrics, and imagine I had time to read those awesome sounding books. Oh, and I can get laundry detergent and milk? Win! A trip to the grocery store works too even if it's not quite as much fun. 
  • Working out first thing in the morning. This is a newer one for me but has fast become my sacred alone time. I get up early and get my blood going. I've been doing Core de Force on Beachbody or taking my dog for a long walk. It's a serious recharge for my spirit to do something that is 100% for me and helps me start my day on a good note. 
I will say that I don't know that I'm successful. Today for example.... first Abby woke up right in the middle of this post. And then, after dinner tonight, she tried throwing books at me. Finally my husband told me to go to the grocery store. I needed that grocery trip!

How do you balance it all if you're an introvert?

Friday, May 12, 2017

My Own Summer Bucket List

I read this article the other day and knew I needed a summer bucket list with my kids. Because I can easily fall into the rut of doing just the playground, which while fun, isn't helping them explore their surrounding. I want to create explorers!
 So I sat down and just wrote: things I've been wanting to do with them, things that don't cost much (or any!) money, things that will get us out and about. A few might just be Mommy/son dates like visiting Niagara Falls when we're in Buffalo. And Abby isn't ready for marshmallows in the yard yet. Altogether I have 12 items but I keep adding a few things here and there. I will probably put it on flip chart paper and hang it up so Chase can check things off when we do them because he'll get joy in that!

I hope this helps us to make the most of summer and have fun! I can't wait! What would be on your bucket list?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Prompt Life

 I've been thinking a lot about goals and self improvement lately. This season of motherhood is tough because they need everything from me. So there is little time left for me. And a lot of that time that's okay. I expected it. I waited a long time to be a mom and had quite a bit of me time. But - oh the but - I do need time here and there to feed my soul. It helps me to be better for them. It keeps my mind stimulated.

I think I've shared that I've been combining watercolors with hand lettering. It's been a good release for me. And it's something I can do when my little people are awake and hanging with me. Not all of my hobbies have that same versatility. I enjoy finding quotes and expressions that inspire me and putting my own spin on how to bring it to life.

I've also been trying to write more. I love writing and you only get better with practice. In the past I tried The Artist's Way. But right now my early mornings are reserved for exercise and I'm not willing to get up earlier to write too. Today I stumbled across this book of writing prompts while shopping at Target. It was $6.99. And I figured it would be a great thing for my kids to have many years from now so see a bit more of what made their mom tick.
My goal is probably to do 2-3 a week. Daily just won't fit with all of my other hobbies. But a few times a week during nap time is completely feasible. Who knows, you might see some of the fruits of my labor here! I want to keep pushing myself to be as me as I can be and not let this season of my life strip me of the things that help me grow, be challenged, and reflect on my values.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Miscarriage

Before Chase, I had another baby. I was pregnant and miscarried. The baby wasn't planned but so welcomed. Losing that baby was one of the toughest things I've gone through, not only in the physical pain of miscarrying but in the raw, awful emotional pain. 

I haven't talked about it in this space because it is so personal. But a friend came to me two days ago, in the midst of her own miscarriage, seeking advice. It ripped at my heart. Not because of my loss but because I so wish no one I know had to have this experience. It's the sisterhood you never wanted to join.

The only advice I could offer was to grieve and allow yourself to cry. You've lost a baby. It's tough because not everyone knows that. You feel like your body failed. And yes, you might have another baby. But you'll have always lost that one. Find a way to celebrate that little life.

I also sought out a therapist afterwards. My pain was so great I wanted to process it. I didn't find a therapist that was the right fit and then, a short while later, I was pregnant with Chase. My pain diminished with a new pregnancy. That's me though and wouldn't be the case for everyone. I'm a huge believer in therapy if you need it.

Your partner might not have the same sense of loss. Remember it's your body doing this so your void might be stronger. You've got the cramps and pain, such a physical reminder of your loss.

And, if you're in the process of miscarrying now, be as kind to yourself as you can be. Talk to someone. Treat yourself to a manicure. Watch Law and Order all day long. Do whatever feels good to you. I'm so very sorry you're experiencing this.

I will say it was a true bring-tears-to-my-eyes honor that my friend came to me. My heart breaks for her. I hope I was able to help on some level. And I hope my sharing might help a few others over time. You aren't alone. And I'm sending love your way.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ways We Exhaust Our Kiddos!

 We didn't plan this weekend out in advance and were left kind of scrambling to put together some fun things for the kiddos. Saturday it was raining so we needed to find something good indoors. Luckily, we're not too far from Giggleberry and it was a perfect thing to do.
 There is a water table there; Chase couldn't care about anything else. He played at a few other places but running from side to side fishing for ducks and rearranging things was what truly made him happy. Abby, on the other hand, wasn't tall enough for that and thus wandered to a lot of other things. She crawled through the tunnel, rode a carousel horse, and played on the firetruck.

Then today, we met up with friends and visited A Day at Delaware Valley University. There were bounce houses to climb in, animals to see, and a bubble entertainer. All of this was great for Chase! It wasn't quite as good for Abby. Any time we took her out of the stroller, she kind of ran off. I let her a bunch. We got out to see the animals. She LOVED staring at the sheep.
 She also loved seeing the chicks and donkey. I'm so glad I was able to do that with just her because I was able to focus on letting her take it all in.

Isn't that such a joy - seeing how your kids take in the world? It's truly one of my favorite parts of parenthood. Chase is a tentative explorer, preferring to have me by his side. He's getting more adventurous though, which I love. Abby is more of a spitfire. You tell her no? She heads right in! She loves to touch, explore, and discover. It's rewarding to see but also sometimes a little nerve racking, as we have to watch closely to ensure she stays safe.
Both kids were thoroughly exhausted when we left there and slept in the car for about 45 minutes. Plus, we had an early bedtime for both!!
I call it a successful, kid-centric weekend!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Putting Myself First

Post second baby, the weight did not leave me like it did post first baby. Which is kind of funny because I nursed longer with the second kiddo. Anyway, I've never been the healthiest Stacy I can be and with the extra weight and the ever narrowing gap between my age and the age my dad died of a heart attack, it was time to make some changes. 

I knew I needed to find a way to increase my activity, both for health and energy. I've been working out pretty regularly for the last month and a half. I'm currently aiming for 5-6 times per week. I get up earlier than everyone in the house so I can hammer it out before the kids need me or I'm faced with a thousand other distractions. Although I don't always enjoy rolling out of bed, I definitely enjoy getting up and moving. I subscribed to Beachbody On Demand and have been doing some mixed martial arts, yoga, barre and other things. I'm really loving that 6-7 am time because I get to focus on just me. I feel like, when you have little kids, focusing on yourself is something that doesn't happen very often. 

I also love that post workout high. I ran for a short while (apparently running and scoliosis don't mix) and loved that high. Now I get it with punching and kicking!
Post workout sweaty selfie with a lovely iphone haziness
 I've also been using a FitBit again. I love tracking my heart rate and I like the reminder to get up and walk. Extra bonus is, if I do enough, the husband's wellness plan will give us money.
Since I've been working out it looks like my scale has gone down a few pounds. My big hairy audacious goal would be to lose about 50 pounds. But honestly, the most important thing for me is to get my heart as healthy as I can and to have more energy for keeping up with the kiddos.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Gift for Me

When we had our second baby we didn't get quite as many meals and other little bit of help as we did with the first. I think this is pretty typical honestly. You already experienced the parenting learning curve from the first and probably prepared more this time. However, I'm a HUGE believer in meals being so helpful. Plus, cooking and helping people are two of my favorite things.

A friend just had her second boy and I was able to work with our little group of friends to cover a few meals after they returned home. Tonight I delivered chicken tacos to them for dinner. Our chicken taco recipe is the easiest. It's just:
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 a package of taco seasoning 
Cook in the crockpot for 2-6 hours.

I doubled the recipe and we had tacos tonight too! Little do my friends know that bringing them dinner was a total gift for me too. Not only did I get to see that sweet baby but I got to help take one thing off their plate.
I also included some chocolate chip cookies and these little homemade friends for their two boys. Because homemade love is just awesome.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Looking Back on the Breastfeeding Experience

Now that we're past the breastfeeding/formula stage, I can look back on it all through a different lens. It was a true struggle for me both times to admit defeat. Because that's what it felt like. The first time, with my son, I didn't know a lot about breastfeeding and figured it would just work. Shocker to anyone who has gone through it - it's not that easy! And I was trying. The latch wasn't great. The production sucked. And I was so exhausted. Exhausted from lack of sleep but truly bone tired from trying. It made me cry. A lot.

The second time, with my daughter, I did the pre work. I visited with a lactation consultant (LC) in advance. I set up a follow up appointment for after her birth. I used a nipple shield. I met with the LCs in the hospital. I took advice. I used different positions. I breastfed then pumped. And man, was I EXHAUSTED. That's serious work. And it was again just too much for me emotionally.

A year later, I can look back on it all and be proud of myself for trying and proud of myself for quitting. Because quitting was what I needed for me. And that's okay. Thankfully we live in a society where formula is available. My kiddos were fed. And a healthy mother - physically AND mentally - is best for baby. I worried I'd miss out on that physical connection with my children. But I was still feeding them and comforting them. When they are hurt, I'm the one they want. When it's bedtime I'm holding them, reading to them, and helping them to transition to sleep. I'm so glad I was able to recognize that quitting was what I needed. And that I was surrounded by people - my mom, my husband, my doctors - who told me that when I needed to hear it. I sincerely hope all women who need to hear that get that. Because your health is important. Taking care of yourself allows you to care for your kiddos.

This post is in collaboration with The Honest Company. Learn more about their formula here

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Challenge of Food

My kids have gotten a bit picky when eating lately. They were such great eaters - going for pretty much everything - but suddenly we're a little unwilling to eat banana, grapes, or oranges. What's changed? No idea. But that's just kiddos being kiddos I think.

From the very beginning, we've subscribed to baby led weaning. We might not have called it that right away but that's what we did. My son - the eldest kiddo - was done with formula right at a year. He loved food so much and took to milk right away. It was kind of magically how he transitioned from bottles to sippy cups and from formula to milk. Okay, seriously magic.
The youngest is slowly getting there. She drinks a lot of water - more so than milk - so I'm hesitant to make the transition. She will tool around the house with that sippy cup on water all day, dribbling water down her as she goes. She also loves food, although not everything lately. She'd eat an avocado a day if I let her (who has that kind of money??). She loves hot dogs. She likes broccoli. She will eat all of her strawberries and then her brother's! But we're still working on moving off formula completely. And honestly I'm okay with that because I'm trusting her to get to the right place when her body is ready.

I also don't really fix a separate meal for them. They eat what we eat although it may be supplemented with something else. When we do chicken tacos, they eat tomato, tortilla, avocado, chicken, and olives. Last night when we had Swedish meatballs and asparagus; they did noodles, asparagus, avocado, and tomatoes. I'm not willing to fix a whole separate dinner. That's just not how I mom.
Speaking on momming (when you create a word, you determine if it has an additional m right?) I will say I've always felt good about the decisions we've made for them with food. They eat mostly nutritious food. It's a balanced diet with a few sweets thrown in. We let them explore and develop their palate. Personally, I'm trying to model healthy eating and exercise for them.

And I've never regretted using formula with them. I hang out with some crunchy mommas. But they also have always subscribed to fed is best. And choosing the formula route was what I needed for good mental health. Between latch challenges and production (oh production!! Don't get me started!), it was so taxing to me emotionally. I really hope all mommas focus on making that choice - the one that is right for their body, mind, and life.