Sunday, January 15, 2017

From Sportswear to Almost Sport Coats

"Yes, buddy - they are as comfortable as I can find them. And at 9 p.m. you can lose the bow tie," I assured our seven-year old, who was throwing a pre-pubescent tantrum over having to dress for wedding.

If your boys are anything like mine (and perhaps some girls too!), their closet is full of Under Armour , Nike and Adidas with hardly a hint of denim or chino in sight. And forget anything with buttons, tags or a touch of structure or polish. Which  makes dressing for things like school pictures, programs, fancier dinners or weddings a challenge.

Learning from my past mistakes, I started the hunt a bit earlier, particularly since the holidays had passed and nicer clothes were all on sale. The big one could be conned into a button down and nicer pants with hardly a fight, where the bow tie would take some major convincing. But hey, it was easier than bringing up the word "layering" or "putting product in your hair."

The little one is sensitive to clothing (buttons, zippers, tags, anything that sags - you name it), so this one called for bribery on top of thoughtful purchases of his top and bottom. And the shoes? Forget it. There's only one particular pair of New Balance in his life.

Here's where we landed:
Big one: comfortable bow tie from Dillards with a no-iron white shirt and chinos from Gap. Couple that with a pair of new Converse and he was set. We didn't require a belt or nicer socks. Verdict: he felt mostly comfortable, shirt was out halfway through and the bowtie made it almost thought he entire evening. Success.
Little one: we'd been working the shirt angle for nearly a month, pulling it out of the closet and bribing away, letting him feel the buttons and choose how he'd wear the sleeves. Surprisingly enough it went right on sans undershirt and wasn't a problem the entire night. The pants were an awesome find: UnderArmour toddler golf pants from Dillards. He didn't even notice they weren't his regular basketball pants as they were super soft and easy to slide around in. Adjustable with a forgiving button, these were amazing. And with a shirt over the top of it, they looked almost identical to dress pants. The toddler Converse were a challenge, but the width, two velcro and color worked great once he got over the stress of it. Success.

Mom borrowed a dress from her boss that was classic and comfortable for carrying 35 pounds around on the dance floor, while Daddy splurged on a new tie and pocket square. Also success.
If your boys are anywhere as tricky to go from sportswear to sport coat, here's some tips to try:

1. Start talking about it early: people like to know what's expected of them. For the anxious ones, assure them others will be dressed the same, so their spiffiness will not be noticed.
2. Use bribes: late bed time, extra books, more time with friends or a sucker.
3. Choose your battles: build you foundation around what they must wear - a nicer shirt and pants - vs. going full hog on adding the belt, coat, slick shoes, etc.
4. Try a spiffier version of their usual: if your kiddo lives in tennis shoes, try just a new pair or doing Converse. If it's basketball pants they live in, choose a fancier sport pant that looks more presentable, but feels just as comfortable.
5. As the party loosens up, so can the clothing: during the reception, near the end of a dinner, let that shirt untuck and the bow tie come off. They'll have more fun and feel more like themselves. By then the women have ditched their heels and men their coats anyway.
6. Invest less or borrow: it won't be often your boy will have to dress this way and by the next round, he'll probably have outgrown it. Shop the sales or borrow from his friends for the event. And if he wears the same button down to every "fancy" event, so be it.
7. Sing their praises: after the event, let them know how much you appreciate them looking nice and ask them how they felt in the clothes. Just because it's expected, doesn't always make it easy for kiddos who have "thoughts" on clothes.

Even better, try to "recover" with a jammie day the next day. They'll thank you.

Then, hang those clothes up they look so adorable in and think to yourself, "I deserve a glass of wine," and slip into your own version of comfy pants. It will be all kinds of happiness.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

What We're Reading

 "Ok buddy what would you like for your three books this evening?" I asked, tossing away his towel to reveal a set of warm, fresh jammies.

For the three-year old, it's always the same:

Spiderman vs. Doc Oc: packed full of adventure, borderline too-old concepts so he can be like his  brother, and superheroes. Perfection.

 Llama Llama Time to Share: the scene where two toddlers get into it over a lovey and the arm comes off?! The ideal amount of drama to make bedtime interesting.

Mickey's Halloween: a lift-the-flap book full of fun that keeps his favorite holiday alive all year long.

The older one likes to mix it up, choosing only chapter books these days, reaching a page goal, then diving into a new one. On his nightstand:
  1. Big Nate box set: a fun mix of conversation bubbles and boy talk, he shares little excerpts as he silently reads. 
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: enjoying them because the older kids do, we take turns reading the pages and pairing the movies on the weekends. 
  3. The Thirteen-Story Treehouse: is goofy and fun, filled with boy humor and things you'd never really get away with at home or school. It reminds me of how much he loved several of his imaginative books when he was younger, all telling the story of building and living in elaborate structures. 
When it's after 11 p.m. and bed calls, it's rare the Mister and I can keep our eyes open to catch a few words, but when we do, we're usually hooked on something about personal growth or bestseller list. Right now I'm digging into:
  1. Carry On, Warrior: a series of the famous Glennon Doyle Melton of, filled with stories that encourage you to be brave, kind and imperfect. Most leave me with smiles, some with tears and almost all of them include something I can identify with on a daily basis.
  2. A Dog's Purpose: the cover of this one caught my eye in a bookstore jaunt recently after almost losing our girl. Couple that with the movie coming out and you have an emotional, heart-warming read that reminds you to cherish your pup and the day's memories.
  3. Radical Acceptance: with 2016 being a year full of surprises, this book calms my spirit and quiets the questions that sometimes resonate in my heart at the end of each day. It's not as light hearted, but just as moving and a strong reminder to be grateful. 
On the Mister's side, you'll find:
  1. Outliers: a book on what makes high achievers tick.
  2. Raising Men: because he's always striving to be the best father.
  3. Basic Economics: since his next financial exam is always right around the corner.
What pages are you turning these days?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Four-Pronged Approach to a New Year

"I don't know, the power of just one word isn't settling well with me," I said to my husband, looking only half-interested as I began the vicious cycle of self-improvement and purging in the New Year.

Hours earlier I sat, a gold-framed chalkboard cradled in my lap, as I tried to bribe the three boys surrounding me to share their wishes for 2017. Things like "for my little brother to cry less" and to "be the world's fastest Dorito eater" were wearing me thin, so I took matters into my own hands.

Shortly after midnight, the sound of fireworks popping outside our new doors and each boy snoozing sound in their place, I thought of what I would strive for in the new year. The previous one had been a jarring one, with world events weighing heavily on our hearts and such significant, surprising changes for our family, it had left us broken and frozen for months at a time. Not to mention the closing months mostly consisting of illness. There was plenty to be thankful for, but admittedly, we were all ready to turn the page.

2017: it's time to pick back up, strap on a smile and get after it. And get grateful.

To document this untapped potential of the new year, just 13 minutes in, I tried a four-prong approach to things:

1. Let go of
2. Priorities
3. Cherish
4. Self-care

The first category includes things like comparisons, FOMO, doing it all and being attached to chaos. The "priorities" list says things like connect, play, reduce spending. In 2017 I will cherish BoyMom moments, more time at home, simplicity and the journey our family is on. And self-care will include going to church more often, reducing emotional eating, more rest and meal planning.

The full list is tucked near my bedside, holding all the newness of the 365 days ahead. Two days in the zen-like state had already passed, but there hasn't been a day yet that I think of the teal ink and what it can mean if I actually do the things I set out to.

This year, may all of your wishes come true. May you find inspiration in the small moments of your everyday. And may some of the most unexpected things bring you joy.

Share your list if you'd like - you never know when you'll be the inspiration someone is looking for.

Cheers to 2017 and you, dear friends.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Life as "Elf"

"Alright kiddos, what movie shall we start with for the holiday season?" I asked, shoving aside all the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown madness to make way for the new holiday.

"ELF!!!" they shouted, twisting their bodies across the couch and quickly moving to a wrestling match.

As I began to watch, I pondered if they like it so much because it resembles their lives, or if it's just that a potty word or two gets thrown in there.

Either way, Will Ferrell and friends nail much of what is everyday in the C house:

1. My children could live on syrup, candy and spaghetti as their major food groups. And me? On that special stuff that gets poured into the coffee cup in the mail room.

2. Agenda making is my number one hobby, even if it's in a Condren vs. an Etch-a-Sketch.

3. Any time I try to hold an adult conversation, it's met with "I painted you a butterfly!" or some other spectacular announcement.

4. My love for Christmas is real.

5. Buddy's affinity for sparkles can only be matched by mine.

6. I'm generally always the biggest one in the room, but with confidence, I can generally shake it.

7."I just like to smile. Smiling's my favorite."

8. Pop up clowns are just scary.

9. When the going gets tough, I too hop an Nordstrom.

10. Can't sing.

11. I live with small children who break things as large as TV stands. Difference: they smack each other with it vs. building toys with the pieces.

12. Force family fun is my forte.

13. I love fiercely. And protect my loved ones from snowball bullies.

14. Still scared of the furnace, despite understanding its monstrous purpose.

15. My brother and I still thrive on laughter and shenanigans.

16. Hugs rule. And fix everything.

17. While at work, I frequently consider myself a cotton-headed ninny muggins when trying to keep up with all that talent and timelines.

18. Riding an escalator still invokes fear of falling. Every time.

19. Most of what I set out to do ends up with chaotic results.

20. Firm believer there's room for everyone on the nice list.

What have you cued up on the Netflix for your family to watch so far this season? Happy snuggling!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Mart Mania!

"Water. Cross body. Cash. Smiles. Sustenance. Game plan. Let's do this!" I exclaimed excitedly to my  Mom, the dawn of one of our favorite days of the year upon us. Climbing into her sedan, we shared stories of our week and anticipated all we were going to find at this year's Holiday Mart. It was the perfect way to start a day of PTO aka "national shopping holiday."

The list included things like teacher's gifts, gems, gourmet holiday decor and of course, anything you can monogram. Top of the pile: things for our new niece/granddaughter. Tutus, bloomers, sassy monograms and sparkly shoes? Yes please. Holiday Mart just took on a whole new purpose.

Arriving to pumpkin donuts literally sitting in a frier, we carbed up and got on our way. Lane 1 did not disappoint. Nor did the dozens of rows to follow:

The edibles: raspberry compote, aged Wisconsin cheese, sweet ham sticks
and enough dips to whip up in a pinch when entertaining or for hostess gifts this holiday
Don't forget the cherry salsa and chocolate covers cherries! 
The wearable: this week's styling event claimed camo is still all the rage.
Therefore this countoured, comfy piece came home to pair with
jeans or plum pants. 
The Giftable: my brother's Georgia loving family will love
this add for their corn hole game. 
The Giftable: perhaps my favorite find of the day is this mug. When days are tough,
my boss and I give each other a certain look and utter the one word listed
above. The accuracy of this mug for her is profound and personal. Plus she obviously
needs the koozie for after work for managing our team.
More wearables: truths for me and the hubs. You can guess which belongs to who.

The girlable: upon meeting our new niece, she shall dress in this
ridiculous, not at all useful but quite adorable ensem. Because aunts can.
More edibles: throw in some sour cream and you have your appetizer!
When you get a moment to yourself, enjoy a warm cup of white hot chocolate
by the fireplace. Yum.
The accessibles: nieces need bows and I need hair cute patterns and bright
colors. Mave jewelry offers unique, simple pieces with slight edge. The ring on the
left is like Kendra with a twist and the bracelets on the right are perfect
for adding to a stack. Not pictured: a fun bangle with my kids' birthstone
and I added a "L." Five-percent of the bangle purchase went to human trafficking.
The girlable + baby: a personalized frame that matches the nursey and a blanket
to accent the past baby shower theme. Plus a little fox from a fabulous
personalized ornament shop for an upcoming baby shower.
The house accessible: a few unique pieces to add to our KC themed basement.
11X14 pics that will fit into IKEA frames.
The shootable: rifle type toy guns that don't look real, include a laser pointer
so the cat can also get involved and the loudest of sounds. Every boys' dream.
It's been non-stop since they came home - including a 6 a.m. battle. Consider
keeping these at the grandparents house!

My Mart marathon buddy - love you Mom!
For those of you headed out today, text me for details on booth names and price if that's helpful. Enjoy and wear comfortable shoes!!! We were a bit slowed by a much-needed bootie change mid-way. I guess that's she way marathons go, huh?

A few changes I think were different this year that may help you prepare:

1. Parking is the same, but there are some road closures. The valet was wide open in the morning, but a long wait to get your car at the end of your journey.

2. Consider bringing your own bags: this year the maps and bag you used to receive at the entrance are now at the Junior League booths. You can get a cute red bag for $1 or a free plastic Charming Charlie one for all of your things. Warning: people will constantly ask you where the Charming Charlie booth is and it's just a sponsorship.

3. Eat up! A huge improvement - now there are food trucks in there! Gyros, fried donuts, loaded fries, salad, booze, BBQ and even sushi. A big step up from the hall food. The Bartle stands are still open.

4. Squeeze in! The aisles are a bit tighter this year. Prepare to fight your way to the sparkly gem you have your eye on.

5. Prepare for iPhone payment: almost every vendor had their iPhone to accept card payments. Many times they were down and required cash. Have those dolla bills ready!

6. Put your feet up! More seating is available plus a cozy couch when it's half-time.

Now grab your shopping buddy and go! And don't forget to share what you found afterward. I'll be hear grieving all the fun is over.

Happy holiday marting!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Commuting Conundrum

"When I was a recruiter, we looked for drives that were no more than 25 minutes," my girlfriend shared, her tone light and supportive as she stared at my sullen face. It was our usual run to Quick Trip, where we indulged in loads of tea and swapped stories of our mornings at work. In other words, a mental health break.

That morning it took me close to 90 minutes to arrive at work. The night before it was nearly an hour before my little ones were tucked close in my arms with a welcome home hug. The next day it was 60 minutes in and another solid 48 to get home. Today was the regular 10 minutes of me complaining about it to anyone who would listen.

My commute - it's a conundrum. And I need help.

From here, it's either uproot from what's our almost dream home (that we've lived in for 9 months) to improve our quality of life, but risk removing our son from an amazing school system, friends he adores and sports teams where he feels like a star. Or it's altering an already complicated schedule, bogged down by two working parents, schools 30 mins apart and workplaces even further. Perhaps it's just changing perspective, drinking a favorite bev on the way and enjoying a podcast or catching up with friends on the phone (Bluetooth of course). Leaving a career I thrive in doesn't seem like an option, that's for sure. Maybe it's just accepting it and changing focus to how amazingly lucky I am with a healthy, growing family, a job and team I adore, the kind of mommy neighbors you only dream of and more.

But friends - I'm paralyzed. Stuck in the death spiral of the commute. In near tears from the rat race of what is 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. in our home. Loaded with guilt, not knowing what to expect, bitterness, frustration and at times, rage. I'm gaining weight, feeling in a funk, arriving to work and returning to home in a foul mood and just not myself. Over a drive. Not acceptable. I mean, my life is pretty damn good.

Except for that drive. But I digress.

So whatcha got? Advice, tips, experiences? I'll take them. Before I'm driven even more looney tunes.

PS: I get that for my big city pals, this is child's play. But KC - we're an anywhere in 15 mins or less in our SUV kinda city. :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sexy Safety

"Wait, you don't carry your ID with you when you're jogging?!" my brother and sis-in-law stared at me in disbelief, most likely calculating the number of times I couldn't find my way out of a box. We were about to go our separate ways on one of Georgia's more prettier parks, which included lack of signs to maintain its beauty. I could see them already slightly panicking about where they may have to pick me up once I took a wrong turn. This is all fair - I barely make it to my best friends' homes without Siri.

Couple this with a mild heart condition, race training underway and general lack of planning when I hit the trails, these two were right - I should carry an ID. But this to-do item generally falls under the "sh*t I should do but never seem to remember or get to"...kind of like "eating healthy," "winterizing the furnace" and "filing papers."

So, being the kind, wonderful people they bro and SIL took care of it for me.

A friendly text banter with the two told me to expect a small package on Thursday, which is always a delight. Any personal mail, even if it was a forgotten item during our recent visit, is welcome and enjoyed. The day arrived and hence the adorable package with witty marketing, a solid case and a gift so thoughtful, I had to have a little welling of the water behind the eyes.

Among the catchy packaging lay a small silver disk that slides and stays perfectly over my beloved Apple watch band. Etched on it is my name, my emergency contacts, the first responder code for my heart condition and the quote "Make each moment count." It's meaningful, well-constructed, innovative and incredibly useful. And to have someone care so much about your safety to send a gift like this for no reason was truly heartwarming.

There's a plate for nearly any device - check out the RoadID site to see them all in their glory. It's the perfect gift for someone you love or a person you just flat out worry about.

Plate yourself up or do so for a loved one today - they'll thank you for it. And they'll look knowledgable and cool while they're doing it...