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I Did My Own What Not To Wear Makeover and It Worked!

Paying attention to fashion, spending time putting on makeup and shelling out money for professional hair care products seemed frivolous.

I was wrong. My lack of fashion sense, and overall presentation, smacked me right in the face this summer.

I’d nominate you

During my ‘lunch breaks’ I tuned in to reruns of TLC’s What Not To Wear – the makeover show featuring stylists Stacy London and Clinton Kelly who transformed more than 300 people in the course of 10 years.

Sitting in my denim capris and oversized t-shirt, I related to those contributors who were ambushed in their yoga pants and Crocs as they wandered out the grocery store sporting a limp ponytails and baseball caps.

After my 8-year-old suggested I go on the show, I decided to pair my style reboot with the show’s comeback slated for 2020.

Style Rules work

Working from home for the past year gave me the excuse to put my daily appearance on the back burner. In my home office, there was no dress code or need to dress to impress.

During the show, the stylists would make contributors put on their favorite outfit before telling them exactly what was wrong with it. Then, they’d proceed to throw away 90% percent of their existing wardrobe.

Normally I’d have my sister or close friends serve as my stylists, they have no problem with brutal honesty, but they’re an ocean away. Lucky for me, our daughters are willing to tell me when my clothes look like a sack.

It’s been 16 years since the first episode aired and the basic rules still apply because they’re not trend specific. I don’t have the $5,000 each contributor spent during their week in New York City, but I do have the style rules.

As I tried on clothes I would normally walk past or put something on because my girls said it would make me look pretty, I began to feel more empowered. I started to see my own style identity.

My Rules and Results

I picked three of the 10 style rules to tackle first. These were the most logical for the rut I found myself in after my 15-year fashion identity crisis, gaining and losing weight and lack of motivation to dress well when working from home.

  1. Find Clothes that Fit

I hate shopping, trying things on and spending a lot of money on clothes. I haven’t shopped by designer labels since browsing the racks at Merry-Go-Round for I.O.U. and Z. Cavaricci.

I certainly never thought to spend money on tailoring my clothes. I didn’t care how the clothes really looked as long as they buttoned and zipped. My lumpy sweaters and saggy jeans didn’t do anything for my style, much less my self esteem.

Sales racks and resale shops provide great options as long as I know what to look for: clothes that feature a defined waist; provide structure not just hang on my frame; lengthen my legs with darker washed pants and jeans; and skirts (pencil or A-line) that cut above the knee.

2. Mommy Doesn’t Mean Frumpy

Most women, and even some men, lose their identity in becoming a spouse and parent. We’re conditioned to put our needs AFTER those of our loved ones. So we go months without haircuts or color. We wear the same clothes for years. We trade our high heels for flip flops.

Even before marriage and kids, I wasn’t following any particular fashion style, I was just getting dressed. The show’s style rules helped hone in on the key parts of style that make any person, with any body type, look and feel their best.

I ditched my frumpy and outdated clothes for some key pieces that flatter my figure and give me confidence.

3. Style needs color, pattern, texture and shine

Mixing patterns, colors and textures puts you on the fast track to the Worst Dressed Lists. Or so I thought. Apparently, wearing these combinations are as much about confidence as they are about style.

Wearing clothes that fit the What Not to Wear style rules.
Working the What Not To Wear Rules about fit, color, and self care.

More Than Clothes

Hair and makeup complete any makeover. I used to apply the bare minimum to avoid looking like a sickly Victorian woman with no eyebrows.

Using the 5-Minute Face from makeup artist Carmindy proves a little effort goes a long way. I even bought a makeup brush set and organizer to ensure I keep up with the routine.

My hair has a mind of it’s own and I never know how it could look minute by minute. I followed Ted Gibson’s hairstyle advice, find quality products that complement my natural curls. Now, I wear my hair down without fear of looking like Mufasa by the end of the day.

Make your own final reveal

A style evolution takes some effort. It means being open to change and loving yourself enough to put your best self forward.

Go through your closets and purge what doesn’t make you feel good.

Bring an honest, but kind, friend or family member shopping with you to break out of style ruts.

Know putting effort into your appearance and style routine isn’t selfish, or old fashioned.

Maybe we don’t all get a televised teary-eyed reveal for our friends and family, but they will notice the difference in your appearance and confidence. More importantly, so will you.

Surviving and Thriving in Our First Year in Germany

Turns out, mom was right – time flies as you get older.

It’s been a year since we first stepped into our new home in Wiesbaden, and we’re still noticing some of the nuances of living in Europe.

Even when we think we’ve caught on to 3-hour dinners, 10 pm sunsets in April, festivals celebrating everything from major holidays to asparagus, there is always something new to explore and learn.

Here are a few things I learned, some the hard way, in the past year that I didn’t expect.

Flat and Chunky

In virtually every city (or small village), cobblestone, brick and dirt roads make up most of the terrain. I retired my 4-inch heels and conformed to the world of flats, chunky wedges and boots after my heel got stuck between pavers three times leaving church.

My love of shoes runs deep. At my peak, I owned nearly fifty pair, excluding softball spikes and flipflops. Now, I wear about six or seven sensible pairs – including rainboots and hiking shoes.

Germans love walking and being outdoors in general. They are out walking, biking, playing sports and dining at cafes no matter the weather. Hessen Park, the local living history museum, has an exhibit about their first hiking clubs.

There are some brave souls who strut in stilettos across the rugged and hilly landscapes. Maybe after four more years here, I could be one of those women instead of the one tripping in the street swearing loudly in English.

Pronunciation – It’s everything

Had we known how challenging the German language is to learn, we would have been more diligent in learning the basics before we moved.

However, we’ve found it’s not really necessary to speak German. The locals can spot Americans a mile away. It’s usually our happy smiles and polite greetings to strangers that set us apart, not to mention our delayed attempts at German with choppy pronunciation.

Six months into our journey, I took a German language class on base. The German language doesn’t believe in more than one sound per letter nor in silent letters. Every letter is pronounced in every word and sometimes, words are combined to make new words. Hence, the extremely long and complicated looking words.

German has a lot of fun phrases that don’t really translate well to English. What we call emotional weight gain, Germans call Kummerspeck (grief bacon). A jacket that is too heavy for spring, but too light for winter actually has a name in German – Übergangsschicht (transition coat between seasons).

Pronunciation is KEY in German. I learned that a bit late when our teacher explained how I had been telling a few people good naked (guten nackt) instead of good night (guten nacht).

Of course the way I said good night was also incorrect as that meaning is good night, I’m off to bed vs greeting someone with good evening (guten abend). Luckily the Germans are pretty forgiving and likely mock us in private when we have such blunders.

Sadly, we are no closer to speaking German than we were nine months ago. We have sticky notes all over the house and books with German vocabulary words, but we are far from conversational speaking. Maybe this time next year I can swear in German when I trip over my heels in the street! Small goals are good.

Slow Down – Familienzeit

Wiesbaden is a busy city. Restaurants, beer gardens, museums and shopping areas fill the downtown and suburban areas. Except for Sundays.

Most places of business close on Sunday to ensure people can spend time with their families and loved ones. A crazy concept for us Americans who are used to stores open 24/7 for our convenience, and their profits.

My idea of family time (Familienzeit) used to mean yard work on the weekends and running errands after church. Here, we’re not even allowed to mow the lawn or do other work that could be loud and disturbing to our neighbors on Sundays.

Seeing how much Germans value down time, travel, hiking – anything that brings enjoyment – encourages us to do the same. It has forced us to slow down really explore the possibilities for adventure that surrounds us.

From our house, a six-hour drive in virtually any direction can put us into six of the nine countries that border Germany. Though the girls and I are disappointed we don’t get passport stamps every time we cross a border, the opportunities are amazing.

The girls may not remember every city we visit or museum we tour, but they will remember how we made the most of the time here and together. As our years here slip by, we’ll work keep that love of adventure, outdoors and family time that Germany is teaching us no matter where we land in four years.

Keep Your Dirty Laundry at Home

Constant shaming and complaining about significant others across social media is irritating.

Each relationship offers challenges and disputes. But that’s what live conversations with your REAL friends and family are for.

Vent with them over a glass of wine (or two) in person and keep your Jerry Springer/Maury Povich accusations and drama offline.

Sorry, NOt Sorry

I sound old fashioned and I don’t care. Changes in relationship dynamics are causing many of us to look like talk show trash.

We’ve all watched daytime or late-night TV shows featuring outraged couples yelling accusations over each other and bringing up personal encounters or paternity tests in front of a captive audience.

We’ve stared wide-eyed at the episodes where people literally tore each other down as the audience egged them on. Now we see it run across our social media feeds daily.

Thankfully, these public bashing posts aren’t from my close family and friends, but I see it more often than care to.

Watching those trashy shows used to make me feel better about myself and my life. I was grateful no one I knew would ever bring me on a TV show to humiliate me.

But now, they don’t have to! It’s easy to get a target placed on you, with friends and acquaintances booing and sneering, without even knowing it.

Venting, Bashing & Teasing

Relationships aren’t perfect. We need to vent sometimes about our significant others, parents, siblings, friends and heaven knows even our kids. Talking through our frustrations help us move forward, clear our heads and gain perspective.

Many of us stopped seeking guidance and support from those who directly know us and truly care for us and replaced it with publicly airing dirty laundry, just like those old talk shows.

Posts done in jest are an exception. Those posts that highlight a spouse’s inability to navigate a grocery store, videos of boyfriends and girlfriends pranking each other or a teenager asking for blinker fluid are intended to be amusing and relatable. And most of the time, the posts are shared with consent.

Sharing funny relationship squabbles online can be entertaining for everyone. There is a difference between teasing a loved one and public humiliation.

Nobody’s perfect – even you

It’s easy to jump into conversations where we hear one side of the story. Tempting to jump on the bandwagon and bash someone we may not even know.

Fanning those flames in comments is effortless. Our screens and keyboards keep us distanced from the impact of these public forums.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times we could all rightfully complain about something our significant other has (or maybe hasn’t) done.

Here’s the thing – they could just as easily do the same thing about you!

There’s a difference between open communication within a relationship and opening your relationship to social media with your 546 friends.

My husband and I rarely say anything about one another that we couldn’t say to the other’s face. We openly joke about each other’s shortcomings, but we never cross the line to shame or embarrass each other.

It’s not to say we don’t disagree and get annoyed with each other. After a decade of marriage, we totally do! It means we keep our intimate discussions between us, maybe with a select group of family or friends, but never on public social media pages.

Teaching Disrespect

We strive to be good examples of a positive and loving relationship for our daughters. Kids look to all adults to show them how to treat others live and online.

When we look at some of the ways adults behave on social media, it’s no wonder our kids find it difficult to be kind or understand healthy relationships.

Relationships require effort and mutual respect. Adults must teach by example how to be open and honest without being mean or trying to embarrass another.

Whether you’re justified in your feelings or not, bashing your ex online or in person affects your kids.

We’ve all been told not to act on emotional responses and to take the time to think before we say something. Words, and posts, can’t be taken back and the impact of what we do and say matters in our relationships.

If we expect our kids to engage in healthy friendships and romantic relationships we better give them a better role model than talk show antics. We need to be better online and in person.

So if any of my family and friends find themselves on an emotional rollercoaster – call, email, text or message me directly before you publicly say something you can’t take back. I promise to listen to you vent and will even supply the wine!

Alone, But Not Lonely, for the Holidays

It’s our first Christmas in Germany. 

The markets, decorations and traditional fanfare put us the holiday spirit – not to mention the glühwein. Yet there is something that feels, well, a little different.

We’ve lived hundreds of miles from our families for the past decade. We’re used to missing out on birthday parties, summer picnics and even first Communions and graduations. 

But, other than the years our daughters were born, we always piled in the car and took the 12-hour drive to Illinois for Christmas. This year, being more than an ocean away, we’re celebrating solo. Kind of…

Americans are Abundant in Germany

Thousands of Americans are stationed in the Wiesbaden area. Army and Air Force bases populate the country in all directions so we are by no means alone in Germany.

Our girls attend American schools on base. The USO and MWR provide a lot of opportunities to gather and celebrate traditional American holidays. So while we may not celebrate holidays with our relatives, we often celebrate together.

We’re off-post for housing, but the neighbor kids welcomed our girls to the area with playing in their pools and on their trampolines within days of moving in. Their parents offer us tips on which festivals are worth traveling to, and there is always some kind of festival happening, and which are not.

We joined PTAs, spouses clubs, churches, sports and Girl Scouts. We’re active and busy with a mix of American and German groups. We enjoy sitting in the stands with other parents recording soccer games or school concerts so Stateside family can see our children perform. Even when we wish they could be here live.

Surrogate Families are Mandatory for Survival

There are certainly things we miss about living in the States, but the travel and cultural opportunities make up for the lack of Target stores or Chick fil A restaurants.

Most Germans speak English, even if they say it’s only a little bit. They are friendly and helpful when we politely ask for assistance and butcher their language in attempts to blend in. In my defense, good night and good naked are only separated by a hard phlegm ‘ch’ sound.

We’ve been lucky in finding amazing friends as we all try to assimilate to our new homes. The trifecta in parenting – when you, your spouse and your kids all get along with another family – isn’t very common. Lightening hit us multiple times.

Much like our time in DC, these groups of coworkers, spouses and neighbors become our surrogate families for the duration of our assignment. These surrogates carry us through the homesickness, share the holidays and celebrate the milestones with us. Without them, we’d be very lonely.

Opening Our Doors

A few of our voyaging friends and family dusted off their passports over the summer and some continue to book trips in the coming years. We’re thrilled to have a home that accommodates multiple visitors and hope some will consider joining us for Christmas.

A few years ago my husband would never elect to host a holiday event. It was enough of a challenge convincing him to attend the numerous events we shared with family. Yet, this year, he was the driving force of hosting our holiday gathering.

Being a part of the military/federal community means opening your doors to friends and families who are transitioning and adjusting. You are never the ‘new’ kid on block for long and there is always room for one more at the table for any event.

So even though thousands of military and civilian families spend holidays away from their blood relatives, we band together and make a family from what was once a group of strangers.

More Than Selling Cookies – Girl Scouts Teaches Life Lessons

Our kids weren’t big joiners in the States.

I admit, they didn’t seem passionate about any one thing to push us into signing them up for a long-term commitment. We enjoyed having our nights and weekends free to have our own adventures.

When our former neighbors joined Girl Scouts, that piqued our girls interest. With our imminent move, we promised to explore troops when got settled. Since we joined a few months ago, it has helped us talk with our girls on some pretty serious topics.

Safety at home and with strangers

Throughout the daycare years, we talked about strangers and personal safety. We performed fire safety drills and talked about when to call 9-1-1.

The Girl Scout assignment for earning the safety badge pumped it up a bit.

Our girls provided diagrams of escape routes on each level of the house. They memorized phone numbers (eek, do any of us do that anymore?), checked maps for the nearest police station and pointed out exit areas in multiple stores or buildings while we were out in town.

Troop leaders encouraged discussions about the different ways people could try to lure kids away from their parents, even using other kids to gain trust. We talked about fighting back and finding safety with trusted adults should they ever find themselves in that situation.

Matt likes nothing more than being prepared, so this badge was important for him to ensure the girls were able to talk through any questions and develop action plans in emergencies.

Community service and Empathy

Our church in Maryland provided so many opportunities to serve our community that when it came time to join the efforts of the Girl Scouts, we didn’t need much convincing to participate.

They always liked being a part of community service. The main difference is they are serving with their peers. The girls learn how much their efforts, even though they’re children, can impact their community.

A recent service project included grounds clean-up at the Kinderfeld American Cemetery in Frankfurt. Until 1981, Americans who suffered the loss of a child under the age of two, and could not afford to send the remains to the States for burial, were allowed to bury their children at the site.

This cemetery includes the names of 448 children, some include the names of stillborn babies, and 176 gravestones. Each year different groups – from the Scouts to military members – make time to care for the grounds and put out bird feeders.

Upon returning from the chilly day, we talked about the loss of children and why some babies don’t get to meet their families. We had age-appropriate conversations about the pain families must feel leaving Germany with their babies buried here. And how much those families appreciate the efforts made to keep the grounds beautiful.

Car Accident Kills Girl Scouts

Brownie troop leaders sent messages to parents that they planned to have the girls sign sympathy cards for a troop in Wisconsin. The troop suffered the loss of three children and a parent volunteer after they were struck by driver during roadside clean-up project.

Broaching the subject seemed complex at first. However, kids are very perceptive and empathetic. We had a long conversation that covered:

  • the importance of being aware of their surroundings at all times
  • the dangers of drugs and other substance abuse
  • the effects substance abuse can have on the user and those they unintentionally harm
  • the unfairness and sorrow of everyone impacted by the accident

It’s scary to talk about such topics with kids who haven’t even hit double digits in their ages. But as parents, it’s our responsibility to be their sounding board when various questions arise, even with uncomfortable topics.

Girl Scouts have offered ways to help our kids understand complex topics as well as providing an atmosphere for them to be themselves.

Fun is crucial

It’s not all seriousness and work. Numerous opportunities for fun and friendship also encourage our girls to attend functions and meetings.

They look forward to seeing their friends and learning more about their roles in helping others.

Hands-on opportunities to engage their brains with activities and STEM-based projects are favorites with our girls.

They are at the perfect age for absorbing these skills and lessons so they can use them in their brilliant futures. Girl Scouts offers ways for parents maintain good communication with their kids about serious topics. As they grow, those opportunities may not be as plentiful.

3 Life Lessons from TV Christmas Movies

My name is Melissa and I love Hallmark Christmas movies.

With more than 85 million people planning to tune in this season, I’m not alone.

I still love my Discovery ID, Dateline and 20/20 shows. But every once in a while, I need a break from these gruesome stories of what damage people do to each other.

Sometimes, I need a character named Holly to ditch her CEO fiancé for a guy in a flannel that sells Christmas trees in a small town.

Sometimes I need a movie that highlights love, compassion and a little faith.

Yes, they are predictable and have similar plot lines. But each also offers some life lessons that can benefit us all.

Slow  Down

We’re all busy. We maintain schedules and appointments with a little time for spontaneity. Even when we get the change for free time, we’re online or taking pictures of the moment rather than being fully present in it.

The holiday season is meant to be spent with those you care about. Virtually every Hallmark Christmas movie includes at least one character attached to their phone and shouting orders to those around them.

That same character inevitably stops by, or gets stranded in, a small town with people who hug more than they Tweet. A place where townsfolk sit around a coffee shop and talk to each other rather than type a status update.

By the end of the 120 minutes, the wound-up city slicker learns to ditch the attachment to technology, fall in love with a local, slowdown and connect with those around them.

Yeah, it’s a movie. But it does remind us to not let life’s distractions come between us and those we love. It doesn’t hurt to be in idyllic surroundings with townspeople singing carols.

Be True to Yourself

We’re spread thin. Self-care is something many talk about, but few actually do.

Some of us stay in jobs or continue relationships when we know they are not benefiting us or bringing us joy. We plug along these paths because it’s easier than shaking things up by going for what we want.

In these beloved movies, at least one character hesitates to jump into what will bring them personal joy. A new job, romance or conversation that could change the course of their life – there is always that back and forth internal monologue that holds the character back.

Fear not! About halfway through the movie, the character wakes up and realizes they cannot hold back anymore and they take the plunge. Often, with great success. Sometimes even on Christmas Eve when the snow begins to fall.

Being everything to everyone is exhausting. Be sure you are doing at least one thing you love every day – like watching hokey movies. Life’s too short to not be yourself.

Believe in Miracles

Christmas celebrates the ultimate miracle.

During our busy lives we often fail to see the little miracles that appear before us. We miss the opportunity to play a part in being someone’s miracle.

So many of these holiday movies showcase the greater good within each of us. They also give hints to the good that surrounds us, in ways we don’t always see or expect.

Whether a holiday movie is a blockbuster on the big screen or a romantic television production, there is a moment when good intervenes and story’s outcome fills viewers with the sense that miracles can happen.

You’re right, these movies don’t imitate real life. They are overly optimistic and a little cheesy. They are hopeful and heartwarming. They make us believe there is good in everyone.

Wouldn’t it be a miracle if we could live like that everyday?

 

Share your favorite holiday movie! Here’s the full list of new Hallmark Christmas Movies.

 

These Are My Boobies, And You Can’t Touch Them

The Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault investigation has the majority of people agreeing on one thing.

Conversations about consent, sexual assault, harassment and misconduct must continue.

The more we talk, the more we confront the issues, the more we listen to victims and the more we educate ourselves and our children about consent – the less chances there are of someone we love becoming a victim.

We need to stop shying away from these topics and engage our kids in honest (age appropriate) discussions about their bodies and who may touch them.

It’s going to take a collective effort to make some real changes regarding respecting personal boundaries and teaching consent. It starts with me. And you.

Empowerment Starts Early

My husband and I take every moment we can empower our girls and give them the support to be confident in themselves regarding their bodies and boundaries.

With so many outside influences, teaching our girls to protect and respect themselves is already a concern. From music to television and movies, they already have sexual imagery and vocabulary.

Our girls began daycare when they were weeks old. By age three, we felt it important to talk with them about their bodies and setting personal boundaries.

There was no danger from staff or students, but we wanted to arm them with the age appropriate knowledge of their bodies. Also, to ensure they knew we supported their feelings about who can engage in contact with them.

We explained their bodies are their own and that areas covered by a bathing suit are private. These areas should not be touched by anyone unless it was mom and dad during bath (they were toddlers) or the doctor when mom and dad were in the room.

They knew if anyone touched them in way they didn’t like, they could tell a trusted adult if mom and dad weren’t there. And we would believe them.

Daisy went to school the next day and walked up to a group of kids saying, ‘These are my boobies, and you can’t touch them.’ While she presented it a little more directly than we talked about, she knew well enough to say this is my body and I say what goes. I love that about our girls.

Don’t leave it to the teachers

Our youngest loves all things feminine – high heels, bras, fancy dresses and accessories. There are times we have say no to certain outfits inappropriate for her age. Ev usually replies, ‘It’s my body, why can’t I wear it?’

Explaining that some people will look at her clothing and make judgement about her is too much for a five-year-old. She will learn soon enough how those judgement can lead to sexually charged comments and behavior.

It’s our job to ensure she knows those behaviors are wrong and she isn’t to blame for other people’s actions.

Teaching our kids to feel comfortable in their own skin and confident in their sexual boundaries is essential. Sexual education isn’t just for the classroom. Parents must take an active role.

In a time when only eight of the 24 states that require sex education include discussion of consent, parents need to make consent a main topic of regular dialog.

It’s an uncomfortable conversation. However, if we don’t all get on the same page of what these definitions of consent, harassment and assault are, we’ll be treading water here for years to come.

Sexual misconduct, harassment and assault are not the same

Sexual boundaries and the laws to protect victims are confusing. While federal law has specific language, state laws can vary on whether actions are civil violations, criminal acts or just tacky behavior.

For example, in Minnesota, sexual misconduct can include groping and fondling of breasts and is classified as a misdemeanor. However, in New York, sexual misconduct includes actually engaging in sex.

If that wasn’t confusing enough, The Barna Group found discrepancies between men and women in the what constitutes sexual harassment.

According to their survey, 86% of women stated making sexual comments about someone’s looks at work qualifies as sexual harassment. When asked the same question, 70% of men equated those same comments as sexual harassment – a significant difference of opinion.

How can we get those definitions and viewpoints aligned? We advocate for improved legislation, active investigations, and victims’ rights. We talk with our employer/employees, with our government leaders, our school administration and our youth.

Discussions about engaging in sex is not enough. Conversations with our boys and girls must include consent and ensuring that any sexual interaction is mutual.

Talking Points for parents

  • Understanding body language – what do visual signs of discomfort look like
  • Listening and respecting other people’s feelings
  • Discuss how they would respond to specific scenarios
  • Explain that changing your mind about a conversation topic or action is okay
  • Encourage them to look out for their friends and tell an adult if they think a friend was hurt

Additional discussion topics can be found in Parents magazine or Child Mind Institute.

If you have additional helpful sites, messages or dialog points on how you plan to help our youth understand sexual consent please share. Conversations lead to action.

Parenting, and Blogging, is Hard

Twenty four hours isn’t enough time for all I need to get done.

Throw in a spouse, kids and trying to start my own freelance writing business and I realize no amount of time is enough to get the laundry list of tasks completed. Ugh always comes back laundry!

As my own blog develops, I’ve explored hundreds of parenting blogs and sites. Each highlights different areas of childcare, health, wellness, recipes and basically surviving parenthood.

There are only so many things that can be said about parenting, however, each writer says it in their own way based on their experience. That’s why we keep coming back for more. There is something in their storytelling, their writing style and shared experience that resonates with readers.

Here are a few of my favorites that I encourage you to check out – after you read mine of course.

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart or humorless

The phrase, Really, Are You Serious, comes up on our house at least once a day. Sometimes it’s from the kids and sometimes us. No matter who says it or who it’s directed toward, it’s usually said because there is no way it could be true. It usually includes a groan and eye roll…you know the drill.

Krystyn’s blogs and content combines sarcasm and Pintrest for a variety of useful tips, informative product discussions and funny stories.

She tackles everything from buying life insurance to creating Maleficent donuts. Yeah, it’s all part of parenting!

Raise Kids with Strong, and Kind, Character

Every parent’s goal is to release our kids into the world with kind hearts and a strong sense of self worth.

Moments a Day offers a path for parents and children to be their best.

Author, home educator and parent, Chelsea Lee Smith, provides inspirational ideas for parenting, interactive workshops and journals to help children learn kindness and other tools that encourage personal growth.

The blog, and other resources available on her site, help the whole family focus on gratitude, manners, patience and mindfulness.

Dads Are Amazing

Dads get a bad rap. Numerous television shows portray them as clueless and confused idiots who don’t know anything about caring for kids.

I’ve heard women complain about and compare spouses for their effort or lack of effort in the home and parenting. I’m grateful that my husband has always embraced his role as a dad and pretty much rocks at it.

Dads matter and their influence on our kids makes an impact.

Fatherly showcases the role of fatherhood and provides an outlet for dads to find kinship in shared experiences as well as oops moments. The site features targeted segments based on child ages as well as areas of interest including money, technology, play and health.

She works hard for the money

Another momma blogger shares her chaos, yet love-filled, life.

Reality Mom Blog topics range from teaching kids the value of money to tips on getting your kids to actually eat what you made for dinner. Is that even possible?

Author Jen Lynn, shares my thought that motherhood is important, challenging and enjoyable no matter if you stay at home, work from home or work outside the home. Motherhood shouldn’t pit us against each other but bring us together to share experiences and learn from each other.

Am I doing this right?

From the moment you pee on the stick, you begin to second guess every decision you make.

What to eat in the first trimester? What’s the best stroller? Do I really a wipe warmer? What is that rash? What should I expect after giving birth?

The Pregnant Chicken offers various ways to get the answers you’re looking for. The section Asshattery alone is worth exploring. I wish I had some of the pregnancy comment comebacks when I was expecting.

From a glossary of pregnancy terms to articles about loss, motherhood and gift registries, there isn’t anything this group isn’t talking about.

Unlimited possibilities

Don’t stop with these suggestions. Find a blogger or site that helps you be the best parent you can be. Whether you need a laugh or create a grocery budget, there are so many parents out there offering their tips, tricks, triumphs and failures.

Have additional bloggers your love? Share what you love ~ we can’t survive parenthood alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Worth the Wait

At the end of the month, we celebrate a milestone – our 10th wedding anniversary.

Even more of an accomplishment is that we still like each other. You read that correctly. I LIKE my husband.

Don’t get me wrong, we do love each other. Love evolves and changes with each new experience and adventure life throws your way. Sharing a life together is much easier, and more fun, when you marry one of your best friends.

I’m not a Relationship expert, I just play one on TV

Based on my romantic track record prior to Matt, I wouldn’t consider myself worthy of offering any type of romantic advice. I kissed quite a few frogs and I am pretty sure there were times I was the frog.

In my 20s I was convinced relationships were supposed to be fiery and full of passion, not quiet and easy. That could be why previous romances crashed and burned and left me swearing off dramatic relationships forever.

Those previous experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – helped guide me in maintaining a successful marriage with my soul mate who had been right in front of me for years.

Friend Zone

Ours was not love at first sight.

Matt will be the first to say he didn’t want anything to do with me when we met on the bus at age 11. He claims my sister and I were both loud and mean, but what girl in junior high isn’t? Over the next few years we both got over my adolescent moodiness and became friends.

We went on a single date in high school because I preferred not to ruin our friendship by actually dating. He did ask me to prom our junior year of high school, as friends, and we remained so for nearly 15 years.

We needed those years to grow up and gain experiences. No matter where I moved in the States or he overseas, we always remained in contact and tried to see each other when we could.

During a visit for his brother’s wedding, Matt looked me straight in the eye and said he was tired of me dating people who treated me poorly. He boldly stated we should risk our friendship and finally date. Talk about fiery exit from the friend zone.

We’ve got issues

When couples first get together, they put out the best versions of themselves. Most of us like to wait a few months before we reveal our inner crazy or quirks.

Because of our years as friends, we knew what we were getting ourselves into. We didn’t hide our crazy quirks, we gave them a high five.

All those previous relationship mistakes proved to be good for our marriage. We had talked about them as they happened and knew the effects they had on us personally. They serve as lessons learned so we don’t make those errors again.

We still have flaws, but we don’t use them against each other or point them out. We help each other do better and be better.

Dynamic Duo

Marriage takes mutual effort, but it shouldn’t be hard work. The other half of your dynamic duo should never bring intentional tears, cause self-doubt or insults. Your partner should soothe your worries and not add to them.

Finding the right life partner comes with time and experience. Since we didn’t get married until we were age 30, we had a chance to really develop a sense of self and selflessness that has proved essential in marriage.

Two weeks after we married, we moved to the East Coast. Matt then traveled more than half of that first year. He deployed when our oldest was six months and traveled consistently when both girls were toddlers.

None of us were excited about that schedule, however, we worked together to keep our relationship and our kids at the top of our priority list.

About a year ago, we started talking about relocating again due to Matt’s job. While we didn’t have a choice about our move to Maryland, we had numerous conversations about what kind of move would be best for our family this time.

While we’re here in Germany, he will be traveling less and we can enjoy our time here together. In addition, he’s supporting my efforts to be more entrepreneurial and work from home as a freelance writer.

No matter where we go or the type of work either of us do, I know he’s always in my corner and I’m in his.

Humor Me

Matt has always been funny. His humor is a bit of slapstick and a whole lot of sarcastic. He was the same when we were kids, just shorter with longer hair.

He can pull out movie quotes or song lyrics at just the right time when I am about to lose my cool so that I end up laughing instead of a foul-mouthed tirade.

Adding kids to a marriage pretty much forces a sense of humor. The crazy antics of our mini-me’s keep us on our toes and smiling. Sharing this parenthood journey with Matt is one of my favorites parts in our story. Chaos, toys, dog hair and laughter fills our house.

I’m in awe how our girls take on so much of our personalities yet remain unique. Watching Matt play, teach and encourage the girls has me fall in love with him each day all over again.

Keeping it alive

We don’t look like we did when we first met or even when we got married.

We don’t go bar hopping, belt out karaoke or attend late-night concerts anymore.

Date nights aren’t what they used to be, but we make an effort to spend time alone together. It’s often with beers and Netflix after kids are asleep, or walking the track while kids are playing soccer.

While it’s not glamorous or wild, these are opportunities for quality time to talk to each other about things other than work or parenting. That time to be ourselves and connect as a couple is so important.

However, when he playfully winks at me over the dinner table or tells me I look good (even if I’m in my pj’s) I am taken back to when he first said he loved me and it’s as if no time has passed.

Everyone knew but me

Apparently, I was the only one surprised at Matt’s dating declaration all those years ago.

Friends and family came out of the woodwork with comments like, ‘finally’ and ‘I knew it’. Even my dad said, “Well, it’s about time” when Matt asked for my hand in marriage.

I was pretty clueless there were any romantic feelings harbored over the years. During all our conversations, Matt never offered any clues that he thought of me as anything more than a friend.  He’s joked that he knew his patience would prove successful in the long run.

As we moved into our house in Maryland, I found a letter Matt had written to me when I was in college and he was active duty, stationed in Georgia. It was a casual letter just catching up and talking about making time to meet for a drink next time we were both in our hometown.

I don’t know why I had kept that letter all these years, but it made me think that there was a larger plan long before I was remotely aware of it.

I’m glad we didn’t date in high school. It wouldn’t be the same. This marriage, the life we built together, was worth the wait.

      

    

 

5 Things To Do With My Kids This Summer – Before I Hide in the Laundry Room with Wine

We’re six days into summer break and I’ve already contemplated opening a bottle of wine at 9 a.m. more than once.

For the first time since the kids were born, they are not in daycare or summer camp. Oh, I had grand plans of workbooks, learning games and quiet play time while I would write and do some prospecting. Those plans got tossed within the first two hours of day one.

Keeping these active girls occupied and not in front of electronics is infinitely harder than I thought. Before I cracked open a local ale or popped the cork on a bottle of Riesling mid-morning, I decided to make a top five list of alternatives based on recommendations and internet searches for the area.

These are in no particular order, just lifelines when I’m at the end of my rope throughout the summer. NOTE – Some of these links may appear in German.

  1. Amusement Parks – Does it get better than an amusement park close to home? After one visit, we purchased year-round passes for Taunus Wonderland, a small amusement park geared to kids under age 13.
    It’s only 25 min from the house and there are plenty of rides, parks and activities that will keep our girls busy. Bonus, they sell giant glasses of beer, so I can enjoy a good pilsner while they feed animals at the petting zoo. The real challenge will be getting their ridiculously catchy theme song out of my head.
    Larger theme parks like Europa Park, Playmobile FunPark, Phantasialand, and Legoland Deutschland Resort are just a couple of hours away. At some point during our time here, we’ll travel to Disneyland Paris.
  2. Summer Reading Program – Now, it’s not as exciting as roller coasters, but our kids love to read. Plus, it’s a quiet activity so I’m all about this one.
    “Reading Takes You Everywhere” is a six week session sponsored by the Europe Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program where kids can participate in reading and ‘exploring, discovering and experiencing people, places and things’.
    Daisy thrives in structured environments and she reads above her grade level so a summer program that keeps her on this successful path is amazing. Ev is learning to read, and our little social butterfly will take the weekly opportunity to meet new friends and create a mini party atmosphere in the hushed halls of the base library.
  3. Outdoor Parks – Germans don’t mess around when they design parks. They feature metal slides, zip lines, merry-go-rounds, rope courses and that’s just in the neighborhood parks. We may never get Daisy to leave Kletterwald, a local climbing park for kids as young as age four. With five courses for kids and a dozen other courses for beginners to experts, it may become a staple year-round activity – once I stop freaking out about plunging to our deaths from the trees.
  4. Science – I’m not sure if our girls love learning or just making things explode. They both love science, chemistry especially. They requested and received numerous science kits at Christmas. With our move, they didn’t get to open them until recently.
    I have baggies of glitter slime, glow in the dark putty, spa oil perfumes, hydroponics and a jar garden going so far. I’ve had to buy extra vinegar, baking soda, gelatin, corn starch and even an aloe plant so the mad scientists can work.
  5. Museums – We’ve participated in local festivals, explored farmer’s markets and dined in neighborhood cafes, but we’ve only scratched the surface of opportunities to dive into local culture.
    Countless museums focus on the history of the area. Additional museums feature hands-on children’s exhibits like the Kinder Museum in Frankfurt or tasty exhibits like the Chocolate Museum in Cologne. Plus, there is always the David Hassellhoff Museum in Berlin which Matt is very insistent we check out – with a cheeseburger in hand.

Time to put a cork in my wine bottle because apparently, there is plenty to do when the kids get stir crazy. Good thing we’ll be here a few years because we surely won’t get to all of these during our first summer.