30 June 2016

3 Unique Ways to Keep the Spirit of Christmas All Year

Every year when the Christmas holiday comes to a close, I always get a little sad and borderline depressed taking down my decorations and packing away the spirit of the season. There is something about the nostalgia and ambiance of Christmas that makes me extremely happy. I really hate to see it go. 

This past Christmas while I was starting to take decorations down around our home, I was telling this to Michael over dinner and he very simply looked at me and said, “Then don’t take it down. Why would you want to take away your happiness?”

Valid question.

I had never thought about it this way before. I’ve always taken our tree and decorations down at the end of the holiday season because “That’s what you’re supposed to do,” like we are programmed robots or small children still following the rules of life set by mom and dad.

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I really, really hate following silly rules and guidelines set by society. I mean, really. Who makes up these ridiculous “rules” anyway? Things like, “Don’t wear white after labor day” and that kind of bullshit. Whatever happened to as long as I’m not hurting you or infringing on your basic human rights, how about we all live and let live?

So friends, that’s what we’ve been doing. Since December, we’ve been celebrating the Christmas spirit throughout the year. The tree stayed up (it’s fake) and we’re going to enjoy all the happy feelings all year long. I’m also going to use this as an opportunity to grow on some other goals, like philanthropy and community service, that I had set for myself and Maddy this year. These three tips on how to keep the spirit of Christmas all year are things you can easily incorporate into your everyday life to bring out all the happy.

3 Unique Ways to Keep The Spirit of Christmas All Year. #parenting #ChristmasIdeas #Philanthropy

29 June 2016

Letters to Madeline: These Are The Things I Wish For You

Letters to Madeline: These Are The Things I Wish For You. #parenting #parentingadvice #girlmom #daughters

My Dearest Madeline,

I could start by telling you how proud I am of the little girl you’re becoming or how every day, I marvel in all the amazing ways you’re growing up and becoming your own person: headstrong, confident, independent and brilliantly funny. The changes I see in you, some big and some small, are coming fast and fleeting right before my eyes. One minute, I remember you as the small and dependent baby you literally were just a few years ago and the next minute, you’re pulling me back into reality with the eight words that have become your life’s mode of operation lately: “Mommy! I can do it all by myself!!!”

I could go on by telling you how the lessons your grandma and poppy and your great-grandmother and great-grandfather taught me shaped my views on life – the kind that mold and create you and have a way of changing your life forever. Each one of them had their own hopes and wishes of what my life would be and become. All of them also said a lot but if they hadn’t said anything at all, that would have been okay too. Each of them have lived their lives by example with their actions showing far more than any words could ever describe, and even though there have been times when we haven’t agreed or even been upset with each other, there has never been a time that I didn’t feel loved, supported or feared that I would ever lose their love. I knew with all of my being that whatever missteps I took in this life, each of them would stand beside me to love and support me along the way. I knew this, and you should too.

Maddy, it’s a crazy mixed bag of emotions when you become a parent and none of it you will ever understand as my child until you have a child of your own. That’s cliché as hell to throw on you but it’s honestly the truth. I could go on and on about lessons, life and how I hope it will affect you all but really, there would never be an end to this letter. Instead, allow me to share a few of my hopes and wishes for you, my dear.

27 June 2016

Madeline Monday

Madeline Monday. #parenting #girlmom #summer


Your annual permission slip to be lazy.
The days get longer,
Let your mind start to wander.
Do nothing and let it count for something,
Beach hair, don’t care,
Strappy sundresses,
Flippity flops,
Laying in the grass studying the clouds.

24 June 2016

To The Cowards Behind GOMI...

To The Cowards Behind GOMI. #GOMI #Blogs #Bloggers #BloggingAdvice

Last week, the husband of one of my favorite blogs, The Freckled Fox, passed away. His name was Martin. He leaves behind his wife Emily and their five small children. I’ve never met or talked with Emily. I only know of her through her blog but that’s the blogging community – when you find blogs you enjoy reading or are actually lucky enough to have friendships sprout from blogging, you begin to develop relationships and a sense of “family” with these people, even if you’ve never met them. It’s a very unique type of association. When you read a blog that you really enjoy and connect with, you find yourself thinking, “If I were to meet this person in real life, we would SO get along.” For me, it’s one of the fulfilling benefits of blogging.

Upon reading Emily’s announcement that Martin had passed, I immediately felt an immense amount of sadness for her and her children. As I thought about how this life-changing event will affect her and their family for years to come, I immediately grew angry; angry at cancer. Angry that good people continue to suffer and leave us but mostly…

I was angry at the cowards behind GOMI.

23 June 2016

Three Thoughts on Thursday

Three Thoughts on Thursday. #parenting #blogs #motherhood

ONE. Snapchat. I know it’s all the craze but y’all…I just can’t get into it.  I think what turns me off are all the filters and the crazy shit people do to their faces and what not. More so, I just don’t get it as in, what’s really the point? It reminds me of foursquare – useless. I know, I know. Lots of people love it and truly, to each their own but for me, I’m good. I already have a hard enough time keeping up with IG, Facebook, LinkedIn blah, blah, blah. Maybe it gets to a point where we’re a little too social as a society?

TWO. While we’re on the subject of social media and Facebook… I try so hard to keep my personal Facebook space light, uplifting and fun but lately? Lately it's been damn hard with everything going on in the world. Case in point: On Tuesday, Michael got strip searched at LaGuardia because of his lipomas (benign fatty lumps inside his body) yet, we can't get reasonable gun control legislation passed. Congress has no problem establishing the TSA; a completely ineffective, intrusive government agency that costs tax payers billions annually but heaven forbid they actually approve legislation to help save lives daily. This madness has to stop. To quote Michael, “America, you should now feel safe because my fat deposits have been thoroughly examined and cleared by TSA.” {Insert all the eye rolls}

THREE. On a more positive note to round this out today, I was perusing Jane.com last night and found the most adorable mid pleated dress. When I checked out the seller’s website and saw that they usually sell it for $60 but I could get it on Jane for $20, I was sold. This dress is so simple but so perfect; I can wear it to work or dress it up for special occasions or a date night. I debated between the mint and pink color but in the end, chose pink. I don’t usually purchase clothing online because my body is weird and I have to try things on but for this, I made an exception. I’m super excited to get it.

 What’s on your mind today? 

22 June 2016

Mommy Confessions: I'm Awkward to Talk to and Nine Other Strange Facts About Me

Mommy Confessions: I'm Awkward to Talk to and Nine Other Strange Facts About Me

ONE. I’m awkward AF to talk to in person. I guess this is why I enjoy writing far more than talking, especially if we don’t know each other. True story: in high school, I had a crush on a boy that worked at the Chick-fil-a in the mall. One Friday night, I finally mustered up the courage to talk to him. I worked my way up to the counter and for some reason that even to this day I don’t know why, I had a napkin in my hand. Well, when he said, “Hello,” I blushed, got scared and brought the napkin up to my mouth.

Now would probably be a good time to tell you that I had a massive set of metal braces in my mouth and since I’m confessing things about me today, I’ll admit that I also sported a set of mall bangs so fierce that they would rival any teen from the 80’s. Moving on…

20 June 2016

Sunday Reset: 7 Ways to Organize Your Life on Sunday to Make Your Week Easier

Before I had Madeline, I had a Sunday ritual of resetting my life to prepare myself for the upcoming week - groceries, food planning, cleaning, and life maintenance. I am a person who craves order (as much as one can get with a four year old) and operate much more effectively and efficiently when I have a plan of action and am prepared for life to the best of my ability.


One child and four moves later, that ritual got shot to hell. If you have children then you know how having kids changes life so I'm not going to waste time explaining how my Sunday ritual of resetting my life got put on the back burner. What I will take time to say is that since that happened, I've been able to tell a HUGE difference in the way my life operates without it and it's no bueno.  Lately, my soul has been craving order and organization so I decided to bring back the Sunday ritual of resetting my life to prepare for a smooth week ahead. I'm hoping this little change brings more balance and frees up more time in other areas for my life. 

17 June 2016

If You're a Parent, You're Matt and Melissa Graves

If You're a Parent, You're Matt and Melissa Graves. #parenting #lanegraves

The evening of February 1st 2014 started like any other regular night. We came home, had dinner, played for a while and then decided to snuggle up on our bed in the master bedroom and watch a movie. Maddy was around two and a half years old and like most toddlers that age, very active. While she would sit for extended amounts of time to watch a movie, she also had the tendency to want to get up to move around. What toddler wouldn’t? I’ve yet to meet a two and a half year old who can sit still for an hour and a half long movie. If you have, contact Guinness Book of World Records.

As we were watching the movie, Maddy began to get restless. At first she started to roll around. Then rolling around turned into a little light playing around then before I knew it, she started jumping and just like that, she fell off the bed. Our bed is a four-poster queen size bed that sits high off the ground. When I say my daughter fell off the bed, she literally took a dive and when she did, she landed on her wrist which broke. I was hysterical with fear coupled with an immense amount of heartbreak. How could this have happened and so quickly? I was right there. I was watching her. I had my full attention on my child yet, she still got injured.

I am Matt and Melissa Graves.

16 June 2016

Four Ways to Teach Our Kids How to do Good In a World Full of Hate

If there's one thing I've learned over the last four years of being a parent, it's that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I’m just being honest. I read all the books, took all the classes, listened to all the unwanted advice, and watched all the parenting videos but let's be real - there is nothing that can prepare you for having your first child. It's a crazy roller coaster ride of emotions. Between the lack of sleep, adjusting to a new life and new normal, and learning about your child, it's easy to get caught up in the day to day hum-drum of life and forget our focus as parents. While I admit that I’m still learning every day how to do this parenting gig right, there was one concept that I was certain of from the day that Maddy was born that I wanted her to understand: How to not only be good but to do good in this world. 

I believe this characteristic of fostering good works starts early in childhood development and is either fostered to its full potential or thrown to the wayside as our children grow up to be adults. I would say that from her sixth month on, Michael and I made it a point to begin instilling the ‘Not only be good but do good’ mentality into Maddy’s everyday life. It’s not a method that comes easily because it requires constant attention to our own actions, but it’s something that we work towards on a daily basis in getting her to understand good works and how our actions, words and deeds affect others.

15 June 2016

A Letter to the First Man I Ever Loved

A Letter to the First Man I Ever Loved. #Parenting #FathersDay #Fathers #Letters

Dear Dad,

Sunday is Father’s Day. It’s your day and I’m so happy to have the opportunity to celebrate you. Out of everyone in my life that has given me help, you are the one who always receives the least amount of praise, recognition and credit for the things you do, but to your own admission, you like it this way. You’ve never been one to want or need the spotlight instead, you’ve always shown your unwavering support from the sidelines. Unfortunately for you, you’re front and center today. It’s time that I use my love of writing to pull you directly into the spotlight so that everyone knows how much you mean to me.

14 June 2016

Five Tips for Raising a Strong-Willed Child

Five Tips For Raising a Strong-Willed Child. #parenting #childbehavior #workingmoms

I'm totally willing to admit that I'm smitten by my daughter's gumption, independence, care free spirit and determination. I've witnessed her solve problems all on her own. I've shared the thrill of her figuring out how to put on her sandals while being able to successfully secure the strap all on her own. I've seen the love and care she gives to all of her friends at school. I've observed how confidently she expresses herself to her teachers, family, friends and us. I know all of these wonderful traits will take my little girl far in life and I feel so honored to be able to tag along for the ride. 

Having said all of this, don't let that cute little face fool you. I will be the first to admit that my little girl is a strong-willed child. From early on in her development, we noticed that she would have temper tantrums over the simplest of things if she wasn't able to do them just so or to her liking. Over the years, bedtime has been a challenge and so has dinner time with getting her to eat certain things or getting her to eat anything at all. Sometimes, even a very simple trip to the grocery store can turn into a battle of wills where picking out snacks or food for lunches is concerned. 

Regardless, it's very important to myself and Michael that Maddy understands that there are certain rules she has to follow and that she maintain a certain level of self-control in our home and when we're out in public. I've learned that with Maddy, as with most strong-willed kids, flare-ups typically happen when she feels powerless or without control which is something very important to a preschooler as it's something they crave early on as a form of independence. 

So the question then becomes how can you help your child feel like they are in control and have a voice even though you as the parent are really the one in control of your child and the rules? Here are some tips I’ve learned from parenting my own strong-willed child. 

13 June 2016

Madeline Monday

Calling out around the world
Are you ready for a brand new beat
Summer's here and the time is right
For dancing in the streets

They're dancing in Chicago
Down in New Orleans
In New York City

All we need is music, sweet music
There'll be music everywhere
They'll be swinging, swaying, records playing
Dancing in the street, oh

It doesn't matter what you wear, just as long as you are there
So come on, every guy, grab a girl, everywhere, around the world
They'll be dancing, dancing in the street

It's an invitation across the nation, a chance for folks to meet
They'll be laughing and singing, music swinging
Dancing in the street
Philadelphia, PA
Baltimore in DC now
Don't forget the motor city
On the streets of Brazil
Back in the USSR
No matter where you are

All we need is music, sweet music
There'll be music everywhere
They'll be swinging, swaying, records playing
Dancing in the street, oh

It doesn't matter what you wear
Just as long as you are there
So come on every guy, grab a girl, everywhere, around the world
They'll be dancing, dancing in the streets

Way down in L.A., everyday
Dancing in the streets
Cross in China too
Me and you
Dancing in the street

Don't you know
They'll be dancing
Dancing in the street
Dancing in the street

'Dancing in the Street' lyrics by David Bowie & Mick Jagger

09 June 2016

6 Things You Should Never Share on the Internet

Oh, the Internet.

A brilliant and amazing hot mess collection of all things fun, annoying and interesting.

And while the Internet is without a doubt one of the best inventions and resources known to man, it is also the most annoying, frustrating and mind-boggling, due largely in part by how it’s used.

Yes, we get a lot of great things from the Internet; recipes {you guys see how quickly I go right to the food?}, parenting advice, news and current events and so much more. Unfortunately, we also get the not-so-great posts and sharing of information that most of us could go our whole lives without seeing, and that’s what I’d like to talk about today. I know this post has been written a million times in a million different ways, but it bears repeating once more because damn – some people just don’t get it. How anyone can live in the year 2016 and not understand that the Internet is PERMANENT is beyond me.

6 Things You Should Never Share on the Internet. #parenting #Internet #workingmoms

08 June 2016

A Child's 10 Commandments For Parents

Every day as parents, we’re dishing out a list of rules and commandments to our kids; do this, don’t do that. Use your manners. Clean up behind you. Don’t put your fingers there. Play nicely with one another. Make sure to share your toys. Don’t ride the dog like a pony.

Often times I’ve wondered what our little kids are thinking in return but don’t have the ability to verbalize. If we have our daily list of commandments, thoughts and rules, surely they have theirs. If I were to place myself in the shoes of a child, here are the 10 commandments I think they would want us to know about childhood:

Every day as parents, we’re dishing out a list of rules and commandments to our kids; do this, don’t do that. Use your manners. Clean up behind you. Don’t put your fingers there. Play nicely with one another. Make sure to share your toys. Don’t ride the dog like a pony.   Often times I’ve wondered what our little kids are thinking in return but don’t have the ability to verbalize. If we have our daily list of commandments, thoughts and rules, surely they have theirs. If I were to place myself in the shoes of a child, here are the 10 commandments I think they would want us to know about childhood

07 June 2016

For the Mother Struggling to Find Happiness & Hope

Most mothers and families are in a constant season of change, and while change can be a very intimidating and daunting thing, I tend to think it can also be therapeutic and refreshing for the soul. 

It’s really all about your perspective. 

For most of us, it’s easy to be happy and find joy in life when things are going our way. When life is clicking along like clockwork and all the puzzle pieces are snug, secure and in the right place, we are grateful and content. Our happiness and outlook on life comes easy and for the most part, we are filled with hope and excitement for the future. 

But what about when life isn’t so great and the challenges and mountains seem impossible to overcome? What about those times in life where our happiness, security and hope are challenged? What is our mindset then? 

Unexpected life decisions, changes and alterations to our daily happiness and routine have a way of testing our will and spirit, sometimes to the breaking point. When you feel as if your security and contentment are compromised, it’s easy to become discouraged and even harder to find the positivity and hope that things will eventually be better. 

I know this because I’ve certainly lived through these seasons as a mother. Through the years, our family has had to make some important decisions about our future and every day, my will, happiness and hope is put to the test. Honestly, most days I feel like throwing my hands in the air and giving up. Saying “I quit!” and hiding in the closet with a huge plate of tacos seems like a better option than being an adult all the time. Becoming closed off and negative about my life and circumstances outside of my control seems easier to accomplish than exercising faith and hope. 

It’s during these hard times that it’s more important than ever to hold tight to our happiness in hope.

For the Mother Struggling to Find Happiness & Hope. #parenting #mothers #workingmoms

I don’t know what you’re facing in your life today. As you get up to start your day, I have no clue of the feelings that are washing over you like waves. I’m unaware of your challenges, your joys, your heartaches and your needs, but I have one simple question for you:

What do you see when you look at the dandelions above?

For some people, they see despair and the ugliness of life literally growing all around them and no matter how much they try to pluck the ugly from their lives, it keeps coming back time and time again.

For some people, they see hope, a wish. For some people, they see a moment to close their eyes and imagine all of the wonderful and amazing possibilities of life and then blow those dreams out into the world with the hope that the universe will respond gently, lovingly, fairly.

Some see a weed, while others see a wish. 

Before my grandfather’s Parkinson’s destroyed his mind while eventually taking his life, we would talk about my life and of the things going on in my world. He would let me ramble on and on about the things that were bothering me, never once interjecting or interrupting. He would simply sit and listen and when I was done, all he would say to me was, “Well baby girl, you can either choose to be happy or to be mad. You can either keep your happiness and hope or let the world take it away from you. The amount of effort is the same either way.” 

Granted, some of our challenges are a little harder than others and not all problems are so easy to fix with sentimental quotes but really, isn’t half the battle to win in this life our mindset? I’ve yet to meet anyone who pulled through a life-changing or challenging situation with a “Fuck this shit” mindset. 

Hope is hard. To have hope means taking chances. It means walking out on a limb or simply having the courage to take the long hard walk at all. Sometimes hope means putting all of your eggs in one basket while having faith that it’s the right choice and that if not, the right things will happen. Hope is hard-fought and hard-won. It means digging in and hanging on by your fingernails, even if by only a very thin thread. It means having the courage to believe in our choices and intentions even when the lying voices tell us that we have nothing to be hopeful for or happy about. It means giving a big fat middle finger to a world that constantly tries to take our happiness and hope at every turn because without it, what’s the point? 

Keeping our happiness and hope during difficult times isn’t a guarantee that life will be perfect or that we will get everything we want simply by asking or hoping for more – maybe we will and maybe we won’t but that really isn’t the point. Keeping our happiness and hope means keeping the power in our own hands to decide our destiny. 

Happiness and hope is a choice, a conscience daily choice that doesn’t mean perfection. It’s a choice we make that turns our wants, wishes and dreams into reality.

Where do you find your hope? How do you hold onto your happiness when life gets rough? 

06 June 2016

Currently in June

Currently in June. #parenting #motherhood #June

A lot of House Hunters International. I’m always intrigued when individuals or families decide to just up and move internationally. Moving in and of itself is such a painful process but to do it overseas? One word: courage.

I’m always interested to see how families make it work in a new country because housing and ways of life are simply different overseas. Typically, homes are smaller and more expensive depending on the country. Getting a sneak peek into the decisions of others is always interesting.

‘The Great Gatsby.’ This is my favorite book written by my favorite author and I usually read it once or twice a year. I’m always able to pick up something new that I never noticed before and the symbolism is so rich and deep.

Fair weather friends. #enoughsaid

All the salads. When summertime rolls around and the weather becomes hot and sticky, I gravitate towards salads. Before you think, “Wow! That’s great!” or try to congratulate me for dieting, let me stop you right there. While yes, having a salad is a better option than say, a loaded cheeseburger and fries, I typically douse my salads in bleu cheese dressing along with every garnish known to man. Bacon bits? Load them on. Croutons? The more the better. Cheese? Yes, please! See? Not so healthy, but it’s what I crave. Life is short. Eat the loaded salad.

Maddy going into Kindergarten in the fall. Aside from the paperwork that gets submitted to the school, I never realized what goes into getting a kid prepped and ready to start school. In PA, kids are required to know their address, their telephone number, how to write their first and last names, colors, numbers and more. Along with this comes the supplies, backpack, lunch box, school clothes, etc.

Just typing this list makes me tired.

Maddy’s 5th birthday party! I’ve reserved a private party space for her at an indoor inflatable playground but I’ve been toying with whether or not to have a theme for the party. I’ve been scouring Pinterest like it’s my J.O.B. but I haven’t really come up with anything that grabs my attention. If I’m being honest, my gut inclination is to kick this whole thing down into low gear and not even stress about it. I grew up without “Pinterest parties” and my life turned out just fine. These days, I feel the need for simplicity.

Current Vacation Crushes
I would absolutely LOVE to do a cruise to Europe. Unfortunately, my bank account and available time off balance doesn’t feel the same way.

As we get older, I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of conservatism. It’s easy to think, “I’m getting older. I need to be careful with the choices I make.” And while that’s true to some extent, I want to live bravely. More importantly, my daughter is looking to me to set the tone for life. What message am I sending?

I’ve been taking it back to the old school lately with a lot of 90’s alternative; Pearl Jam, DMB, Nirvana, Chili Peppers and more. While I find a few songs I enjoy from today’s music, the 80’s and 90’s will always have my heart.

France’s new law making it illegal for employers to contact employees after work and on the weekends. Kudos to France for taking the initiative to lead the way in work/life balance for working parents and individuals because really, no job is that important.

So tell me – what’s currently going on in your world in June? 

03 June 2016

Hello Friday!

ONE. Today is the last day I will spend in my 30’s. When I wake up tomorrow, I’ll be 40 and fan-fucking-tabulous. It’s still very surreal to think about 40. When I turned 30, I was married to my ex-husband, owned a home in Roanoke, VA and was child-free. A decade later, I’m a mom, rent a home, have moved four times in six years and have upgraded significantly in the spouse department. A lot has happened to me over the past decade but it’s all brought me to where I am today so I can’t complain. Earlier this week, I talked about the 40 things I’ve learned in 40 years and boy is it all true.

TWO. We had a really great Memorial Day holiday. We started our day with a trip to the park, stopped in to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast, stopped by the hardware store for flowers and potting stuff, planted, napped and relaxed. It was the perfect day off and made it really difficult to go back to work on Tuesday.

THREE. Maddy’s 5th Birthday is coming up around the end of July and I still haven’t decided what kind of theme I want to do. Parent of the year right here, folks. I decided to keep things super easy this year and have her party at an indoor inflatable playground because A. They do all the work for you and B. It’s worth every penny.

Having said this, I’d still like to have some kind of theme for Maddy. What’s hot these days?

FOUR. Today is National Donut Day! Now this is a “holiday” I can get down with. I LOVE donuts. While applying for a job once, the employer asked me while I was taking my drug test if they would find anything suspicious in my sample and I said, “Well, it’s very likely that you will find high trace amounts of donut residue floating around in my system so if that’s “suspicious” then yes.”

She wasn’t amused.

Go get your free donut today! I know I will. #nomnomnom

FIVE. In the current installment of Maddy Says, we find Maddy reminding her mother that she will forever be smarter than her parents because of a roll of candy. I’m telling you guys, I can’t make this shit up. This is from an actual conversation:

Me: "Maddy, you're super smart. Do you know that?" 
Maddy: "Yes mama, I know. I eat candy called Smarties and it makes me really smart."

Well, DUHHHHH on me. *insert all the eye rolls*

Have a wonderful weekend! 

02 June 2016

Three Thoughts on Thursday

Three Thoughts on Thursday. #parenting #parentingadvice #mothers #gardening

ONE. I’m going to admit that I love having a long holiday weekend BUT it kind of sucks going into the next week, you know? My whole week feels thrown off because we’re out of our routine and in return, I feel completely discombobulated, rushed and stressed. Work is hectic because now everyone wants to cram five days of productivity into four, getting the kid back into her normal routine is like pulling teeth and overall, it’s just a feeling of…eh. And who really likes “eh?” Not me.

01 June 2016

40 Things I've Learned in 40 Years

40 Things I've Learned in 40 Years. #parenting #lifelessons #birthday

Well, on Saturday I turn 40. I’m not quite sure how this happened. I certainly don’t feel 40. What is 40 supposed to feel like, anyway? If it’s still laughing at farts, using light sabers to play Star Wars in the toy isle at Target and enjoying episodes of Peppa Pig, then yeah – I’m 40. Otherwise, I’m not interested.