Friday, August 16, 2013

Where'd You Go?

Hello! DivaScript has moved to Hope to see you there!

Reducing Stress, Five Minutes at a Time

I planned on showing you my Ode to Denim outfits today, but two things changed my mind.

1. A friend tweeted about her need to take better care of herself. Stress from work is taking its toll.

2. Hubby, who has the girls during the day while he's on leave from work, reached his limit. Lil Ma woke up too early, didn't nap long enough and whined nonstop. I could tell he needed relief when he fussed at Mini Me because she didn't want lettuce on her chicken sandwich.

After Lil Ma slapped a spoonful of peaches across the room, Hubby went into the basement. We finished dinner without him. I left a sandwich on the oven. A while later, I heard footsteps, and then the sandwich was gone.

Life throws a lot at us. On any given day, there are countless things that could change me from Bruce Banner into the Hulk. 

Five minutes can make the difference. It may not seem like all that much, but I've learned to use the time to quiet my nerves and focus on solutions. Here are a few things I do to quiet my inner Hulk.

Get some distance. At work, a never-ending to do list and an overflowing inbox give me heartburn. Walking away from my computer for a few minutes allows me to gain perspective. When the girls are pushing my buttons at home, I'll ask Mini Me to keep an eye on her sister while I handle some in-house errand like putting laundry into the washer.

Breathe. I hold my breath and hunch my shoulders when I'm stressed. The resulting neck cramp can last for days if I'm not careful. After the girls are asleep, I sit, enjoy the silence, and take some deep breaths. It helps my shoulders get back to where they belong.

Yoga. When the deep breaths don't cut it, I pull out the yoga mat. By focusing on the poses, I'm able to clear my mind and let go of what's bothering me, even if it's just for a little while.

Online Window Shopping/Pinterest. When I'm developing a project at work or writing at home, I give myself five-minutes "breaks" after completing a portion of the task. Setting the timer on my phone helps me steer clear of rabbit holes.

Not everything is for everyone. Hubby, for example, needs about two hours in his man cave with a game controller or a remote in hand. Even if these ideas aren't for you, I hope you are encouraged to find something that works.

What tips do you have for relieving stress?

Thursday, August 15, 2013


I'd forgotten how many forms kids bring home during the first day of school. Mini Me's stack looks bigger than last year. The papers all ask for the same thing; they're just different colors. Parents names. Contact information. Emergency contact information. Food allergies. Backup emergency contacts. I still don't understand why the office can't take one form I complete and copy it as needed. Or better yet, couldn't this stuff be online?

Sorry, I digress.

One of the papers was for a violin program. Students who participate will take two weekly violin lessons during school hours, and there will be two evening concerts.

I have a soft spot for the violin. When I was in the fifth grade, I asked my parents if I could play. I convinced them to meet with the music teacher for details. The instrument expense, combined with their open disdain for extracurricular activities, kept my hopes at bay.

Not wanting to live vicariously through my kid, I asked Mini Me for her take.

"I'd like to try it," she grinned.

I mentioned the program to Momma and said that I planned on letting Mini Me join.

"Sounds good," she said.

Say what?

I reminded her I wanted to play violin. I told her how she and Daddy tag teamed me with a slew of reasons why violin lessons were a bad idea.

"Didn't you want to play the xylophone?" she asked.

"No, the violin," I said.  "Would you have let me play the xylophone?"

"Hmm. I don't remember this at all, " Momma said.

I am well aware of the fact that she didn't answer the question.

The smallest moments from childhood affect how you parent. I wasn't distraught about not playing violin, but I think of it whenever Mini Me wants to try something new. I remind myself that this is her time for exploration. Hubby and I want to expose her to a variety of experiences.

I'm not sure if Mini Me will take to the violin, but I do know this will make for a very noisy school year. Anybody know where I can get earplugs wholesale?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Glamour Girl

My one-year-old daughter prefers eating shoes to wearing them. Except when it comes to this pair; she will wear them nearly all day.  I'm sure the glitter has something to do with it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Third Grader

Today, Mini Me started her first day of the third grade. I can hardly believe time has gone by so quickly. I didn't think I'd ever use the phrase "it seems like only yesterday," but then I had kids.

When I held Mini Me in my arms for the first time, I peered into her tiny face and wondered what type of person she'd be. Time flew. She's in her fourth year of elementary school, and now I know.

She's awesome.

Mini Me is funny and creative. She has this MacGyver-esque sense that can repurpose just about anything into a work of art. Her love for pink and glitter knows no bounds. She loves to dance. If her favorite song comes on, Mini Me has no problem singing it loud enough (and I do mean loud) for everyone within earshot.

She's also extremely tenderhearted. Her sympathy extends to mistreated pets, friends and family, and anyone she sees on TV. I make sure to avoid watching the news before bedtime because any story of hardship keeps her from sleep.

I remember the person I was in the third grade. Quiet. Reserved. Unsure. I had a small group of friends, and I preferred the back of the crowd, unless I was sitting in a classroom. Mini Me, so named for her physical resemblance to me, is willing to give new experiences a try. And, if you let her, she'll often lead the way.

I want my daughter to embrace her creative, adventurous nature. As she navigates through life, she'll experience things that further shape the woman she becomes. Some of these experiences will be wonderful, and others will, for lack of a better word, suck.

Here are a few things that I want to share with Mini Me this year to help her with the journey:

  • Always be you, even when others don't get it. This will be hard at times but worth it in the end.
  • Don't tease or put someone else down so you can fit in. Loving yourself doesn't mean hating everyone else.
  • Trust that little voice inside. If you think something is wrong, it probably is. And whenever your "spidey sense" goes off, it's definitely wrong. Get out of that situation as fast as you can.
  • Keep asking questions, even when it drives Daddy and me nuts. 
  • Remember that we love you, and you can come to us about anything.
I am so honored that God entrusted me with this boisterous spirit. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fabulous Me: Ode to Denim

I give very little detail about my job on the blogosphere. There's a very good reason for that. We have a blogging policy and I value my paycheck.

I work in the communications field, and our office has been business casual for years. Denim was on the no-no list until about a year ago. We were given the green light to wear it on Fridays only. Last week, management announced that we can wear denim any day of the week, as long as we use our best judgement.

There was a denim jacket in my office from a casual Friday. As soon as I left the staff meeting, I put it on. If I had some confetti, I would have thrown it. I love denim.

I've heard arguments on both sides of the denim-at-work argument. Some say that it hinders productivity and professionalism, others say that denim makes employees happy. And happy employees are more productive. I tend to agree with the latter.

Plus, did I mention that I love denim?

In honor of my job's new dress policy, I'm wearing denim to work every day this week. I'll post the pics on Friday for you to see.

What do you think about denim at the office? How do you dress it up to make it work appropriate?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Grocery Store

Saturday morning, I readied the girls and headed to the grocery store. Of all of the errands I run, grocery shopping ties with getting gas as something I wish I could pay someone else to handle.

My regular store recently rearranged everything, and I have yet to get my bearings. Add to that the fact that I accidentally deleted my list, and grocery shopping temporarily clinches the No.1 spot on my list of least-favorite things to do.

My eldest, however loves it. So I try to keep a chipper attitude as we wander the aisles. I waited patiently as Mini Me studied the Pop-Tarts while Lil Ma tried to eat a raisins box (not to be confused with a box of raisins).

Even with a couple of back tracks, we made it through the store in about 20 minutes and found a cashier with no line.

Our cart wasn't overflowing, but things never fit back into it once they're bagged. I asked Mini Me to get another cart.

She looked concerned. "You mean I have to walk out the door and back in?"
I sighed. "Yes, but I can see you." Mini didn't look convinced.

"You can have mine." A voice from behind me said. I turned and saw an older gentleman. He was medium build with dark brown skin and a gentle expression. Most of his face was covered by a trucker's hat and those oversized frames that grandpas wear. He had about five items on the conveyor belt.

I thanked him and passed the cart to the bagger. When I turned back to the cashier to pay, he was holding out two one-dollar bills.

"Please give these to your girls," he said. "They're so precious, and they remind me of my own grandkids."

He really made my day. I thanked him profusely before heading out the door.
That was the first time that I really understood the impact that a random act of kindness can have. I plan on paying it forward.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Icees and Insults

Target is a problem for me. No matter how I hard I try, I cannot walk in there and spend less than $50. There's always something that catches my attention, and I make an excuse to buy it.

I've had the most success avoiding the concession counter, but today something caught my eye.

The Cherry-Pomegranate Icee. 

I'm a sucker for an Icee. I live about 5 minutes from a movie theater, but I will drive another 15 minutes to a theater that sells white cherry Icees.

As I was paying for my popcorn/Icee combo, two women and a teen approached the counter.

"I'll be right with you," the clerk said to them as she went to get my popcorn. 

The teen made several "Mama can I have" menu requests while they waited. Mom vetoed every one and suggested water. When the girl started to complain, Mom suggested that she use her own money. The girl scoffed and rolled her eyes.

I held back my chuckle as I took my popcorn and Icee cup from the clerk. Mini Me was only 8, and she panicked at any mention of breaking into her allowance.

Mom turned to the other woman in her party. "This heifer got paid this week, but then she has the nerve to turn around ask me for money."

"But I didn't get any money for my birthday!" the girl exclaimed. The other woman laughed. 

I was so caught up in the exchange that I ovefilled my Icee cup. 

Did this woman just call her teenage daughter a heifer?

It's easy to pass judgement on a single incident, so I did my best avoid that. Instead, I started to think about what I say to my own daughter. My temper runs short when I feel rushed or overwhelmed. In various moments, I've called her a drama queen, a slow-poke, and a faker (based on ailments that flare up only at bedtime).  

I go Mama-Bear HAM if someone says someting hurtful to my kids, but what good is that if I then turn around and insult them? 

Some comments may not seem like a big deal, but multiplied over the weeks, months, and years of childhood, they could degrade a relationship.

When I was in high school, I won an essay contest. I didn't want to attend the award ceremony and read my work, but my mom made me go. When I released my teenage rage, she said I was acting like a bitch. I was hurt. After I read the essay, I was glad I did. I decided I was being a jerk, and I let it go.

But that single incident had the potential to leave an ugly scar.

I want my kids to feel loved even when I don't agree with their decisions, so I need to be more mindful of the things I say. 

What would you like to change about the way you communicate?

Friday, August 09, 2013

The Talk

I was nervous about having The Talk with my daughter even before she was born. I thought about how my parents handled it, and I wanted to try something different. My first education on the birds and the bees came from the Charlie Brown encylopedia. I vaguely remember Charlie and Lucy pointing to a diagram of a baby in the womb.

When I was in the fifth or sixth grade, my school passed out a pamplet about menstruation. It was written by Kotex, and the main characters were three girls who were pen pals. They spent the entire time writing about how their bodies were changing as they navigated puberty. I showed it to my mom, and she asked me to read it and come to her with any questions. I didn't really have any. Charlie Brown and the Kotex Girls were pretty thorough. Or at least I thought they were.

I also remember my dad trying to talk to me. We were watching an episode of The Facts of Life, and Tootie and Jeff were contemplating sex. My dad looked at me and said, "You know you shouldn't be doing that, right?"

My response: "They love each other and are talking about marriage. Isn't that what they're supposed to do?" Plus, I was 11 and Tootie was 19 or 20. She seemed like an old woman to me. My dad got flustered and changed the subject.

Although everything turned out fine for me, I want a more open relationship with my daughters. I read about the things that are happening with kids these days, and the landscape is so different from when I was a girl. To me, it's downright frightening at times. Keeping communications open with them is critical.

My first talk with Mini Me was when she was five. She had just taken a bath, and I was helping her into her PJs. We talked about what made girls different from boys and how those parts are private. I told her no one should try to touch her priviate parts, and if they did, she should go to a teacher and to me right away.

She nodded, and then proceeded to ask me about our next's days itinerary. Every so often, I would broach the subject again and pepper in new information. We talked about strangers, what to do if she were lost, and I reminded her every time that there was nothing that she couldn't ask me.

She took me up on my offer two years later. We were on our way home from a birthday party, and I was beat. The radio station that usually plays popular music and home loan commercials decided to run a series of Planned Parenthood ads that day. Mini Me picked up on the subject matter before I could change the station.

"Can teenagers get pregnant?" she asked.

"Um, yes." I said.

"Were you pregnant in high school?"

"No," I said.

"Why not?"

"Huh?" I wasn't really sure where she was going with this.

"How is it that some girls get pregnant in high school, but you didn't?"

"Um, I didn't spend time with boys in a way that I could get pregnant." I was dodging, but I just wasn't ready.

"Spend time like how? You mean like eating lunch?"

This was not going well. I had flashbacks of an Happy Days episode where a girl thought you got pregnant by swimming with boys. I took a deep breath.

"Let's get home. I'll put your sister down for a nap, and then we can talk." 

She seemed satisfied, but home was less than five minutes away, and the baby was already asleep. This stall wasn't going to buy me much time.

After Lil Ma was in her room, I sat down with Mini Me and started our conversation. 

"Do you remember when I explained how you and your sister came out of Mom's tummy?" 

She nodded. "You squeezed and we came out through your privates."

"Yes," I said. "And babies are put into a mommy's tummy through her privates. mommy and daddy touch their private parts to make a baby."

"Ew!" She frowned. 

"So, when two grown-ups decide that they want to be a mommy and a daddy...."

"They touch privates." She finished my sentence with her frown still intact.

"That's right. Girls and boys in high school make sometimes babies when they don't fully understand what they're doing."

"Umph," Mini Me crossed her arms. "I don't want to have a baby in high school, so I won't be rubbing my privates with a boy. I'm waiting until I'm 30."

"Smart girl," I smiled. There was a lot more to cover, but I figured that was enough for one day. 

That was about eight months ago. During her annual physical, the pediatrician mentioned the p word: puberty. I take that as a sign to have another talk. They get a little easier each time, but I still get a edgy. It's more important that I keep the lines of communication open, so I push my nerves aside.

At what age do you think it's appropriate to talk to your kids about sex? How did you handle the conversation? Did you use any books, or did you just wing it?

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Five Minutes for Makeup, Part 3

This is the third installment on my skincare and makeup series.

I wrote about my five-minute face a few years ago, but some things have changed. As I mentioned in a previous post, it seems to take more makeup these days to make me look "natural."

I've focused on clearning out my old products and keeping my makeup brushes clean, and that has helped a lot. My skin experiences fewer breakouts, and fewer breakouts means less make up. So, I can still get ready in about five minutes.

This blog is about my everyday face. On special occasions, I make an effort to get more glam. Before I dive into my routine, here's a bare-faced shot so you know what I'm working with:

Step One: Wash. Tone. Serum. Moisturize. I have this down pat. It only takes a minute.

Step Two: I completely make up my eyes with primer and shadow, then I add concealer. I learned this trick from a Sephorian. It allows you to clean up any mistakes with concealer and not waste any time.

Step Three. Foundation, then powder. Use a stiple brush, and I put foundation only where I need it. Then I give my entire face a quick sweep of powder.

Step Four: Blush. This is a recent addition. I use two blushes; one is for color, and the other is a translucent that gives me a dewy look.

Step Five: Lips. Half the time, I end up putting on lip gloss in the car because the color I want to use is in my purse.

The first time I clocked this routine, it took me six and a half minutes to complete. I realized I spent a lot of time digging in my Caboodle for things one by one. Now I pull everything out first, and that reduced the time by a minute.

Here's the finished product. My bathroom light was terrible, so I took the photo at work.

I'd love to hear any tips you have about makeup and skincare. Even though I've simplified things, I'm still a cosmetics junkie!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Happy Birthday, Momma!

Sorry for the interruption in the five-minute face series, but I would get a Daniel Green house shoe upside the head if I did not acknowledge today's holiday.

It's my mom's birthday!

I've always thought of Momma (her preferred spelling) as a force of nature. She's deeply loving and equally no nonsense. Big M takes mess from no one. And while she's never been a stranger to a good time, Momma kept her guard up around us. That's how it should be, though. She's our mom, not our friend.

This is Momma during her college years. Aside from handling business at the card table, I have no idea what's going on. But I've always loved it. It shows her in a totally free moment, long before marriage and motherhood met her acquaintance.

There were times when I was growing up that I thought my mom didn't understand me, but after I found this photo, I realized that wasn't the case. The girl in this photo had a life. She had friends and fun. She made mistakes.

She was like me.

Happy Birthday, Momma! I love you.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Five Minutes for Makeup, Part 2

This is the second in my three-part series on my experiences with skincare and makeup.

I've been on a mission of late to maintain to most radiant skin possible. In my previous post, I talked about getting rid of old and unusable products.

After I tackled my Caboodle full of expired skincare and makeup, I focused on how my makeup brushes affect the health of my skin. I'm sure there is a scientific explanation about how it works, but I'm going with logic. Using a brush over and over without cleaning it means at some point, you are putting dirt on your face and back into your products. This sounds gross, and I doubt that it's good for your complexion.

A Sephorians once suggested I use sponges to apply makeup. I wouldn't have to worry about contaminating products or keeping tools clean. I tried it and hated it. My makeup was splotchy, and I kept forgetting to buy new sponges after I ran out. So I stick with brushes. They give me the application I like with minimal effort. To keep the makeup cooties at bay, I spend five minutes each week cleaning them. There are two techniques that I've tried.

Baby Shampoo or Liquid Hand Soap. Wet the brush and work a little soap into the it. Rinse until the water's clear. Be careful not to let the metal clamp that connects the brush to the handle get too wet. Over time, excess moisture could weaken the glue that keeps the bristles in place. During one of my numerous trips to somebody's cosmetics counter, a consultant told me to let the brushes dry while lying on their sides. If possible, the bristles should hang over an edge. Never put your brushes upside down in a cup; they will get mangled. Lying your brushes on a towel to dry could bring on mildew (yuck!).

Dishwashing Liquid + Vinegar. I found this link thanks to Pinterest. Mix one tablespoon of dish detergent and one tablespoon of vinegar with a cup of warm water. Swish the brushes around, again taking care to avoid the metal clamp. Rinse until clear and dry as indicated above. I thought my brushes were clean until I tried this method. The water turned brown as soon as the tip of the brush hit the water.

I've seen a HUGE difference since I started regularly cleaning my brushes. My makeup applies much better, and I tend to use less product. Between this and using unexpired products, I've had fewer breakouts.

Stay tuned for Part 3 - My five-minute face!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, August 05, 2013

Five Minutes for Makeup, Part 1

The older I get, the more makeup it takes for me look as if I'm not wearing all that much makeup.

I spent my teens in nothing but lip gloss. A brief summer job at a department store cosmetics counter won me a slew of eyeshadow, most of which I gave away or let expire. I breezed through my 20s with gloss, groomed eyebrows and the occassional application of undereye concealer or powder.

Then 30 happened. That year, I had my first child, and fluctuating hormones, sleepless nights, and sketchy eating habits made my skin go beserk. The makeup routine of my youth no longer cut it.

Fortunately, my time at the cosmetics counter put me on a good skincare rountine. I wash, tone and moisturize twice a day. Unfortunately, that same experience made me a skincare junkie. I'm willing to try just about anything, and the words "gift with purchase" are very difficult for me to ignore. Once I decided to jump on the makeup bandwagon, the addiction took hold. Emails from Sephora inevitably ended in an online order.

The binge resulted in an overwhelming collection of products. I figured out how to put on my makeup in about five minutes (explanation to come in Part 3), and I was generally pleased.

Yet, I was not that happy with my natural complexion. I experienced occasional breakouts, and the zits left dark spots that took months to fade.

I opened my medicine cabinet one day and looked at my skincare and makeup. I was unsure of when some of them were purchased. That's when the epiphany hit:

Was I making my skin worse by using too many products and/or expired products? The miracle of modern technology known as Google led me to a few articles that confirmed my suspicions. Makeup can grow bacteria if it's kept too long. I've never known the "b" word to be associated with anything good, so I went about the business of cleaning out my cosmetics.

I pulled out my Caboodle and stash of cosmetics bags. I'm a child of the 80s, so yes, I still have a Caboodle. It's blue with a purple clasp and pull-out tray; I convinced my mom to buy it for me because it was on clearance at Target.

But, I digress. Here's how I spent five minutes:

Samples and unflattering free gifts were the first to go. I have sensitive combination skin, so anything uncomplementary to that hit the trash. BB cream and foundations labeled "oyster bisque" were next out the door. My profile pic should tell you why those don't work. I also tossed samples of high-priced products. There's no need to fall in love with anything I can't afford to buy when the sample runs out.

Then I tackled my products in rotation and got rid of anything that expired. I've heard so many things about how long you should keep makeup, so this was tricky.  In general, mascara is a three-month deal. I value my eyesight, so I adhere to this one. Most foundations last about a year, some powders can go for two. Eye and lip liners, when sharpened from time to time, can last about three years. If you're like me, and you don't remember when you bought it, it's probably a good idea to throw it out. And if it smells funny, that's a definite toss.

During one of my many trips to Sephora, a makeup artist told me to pay attention to product labels. Some manufacturers indicate how long to keep a product with this tiny diagram:

If you have extra time, you can use those little round stickers to label products. I write down the date that I open it so that I know how long it takes me to use something completely. And I know exactly when to toss it if there's any left when that window expires.

So, how's my skin doing? I'll give you an update in Part 2!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, August 04, 2013

A Look Back

A friend posted this vintage pic of me to Facebook last year. 

There are more recent days that I can't remember, but this moment is pretty clear. This was during my junior year of college. My sorority was hosting a fundraiser, and my BFF and I were co-chairs. The tuxedo shirt was the evening's uniform. A Soror snapped this pic while we were setting up. 

That event (DST King of Hearts Pageant) was the first event I'd ever planned. There were so many moving parts, and I was a bundle of nerves. One of the contestants was driving me batty, and I remember screaming at him at some point. There were a few other hiccups, but overall, the evening went well. 

I didn't appreciate this photo until I ran across it a couple of weeks ago. I make my living as a project manager and event planner, so this pic is a glimpse of how I started. 

One thing I wish I had known then is that the unexpected will always happen, no matter how well you plan. What makes the difference is how you navigate the bumps along the way. Keep a cool head, a calm demeanor, and treat your team with respect. 

Oh, and wear comfortable shoes. I had on heels that night. My feet were killing me by the time I got home. 

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Five Minute Baby Bag

Last week, I took Lil Ma to a birthday party. Not long after we arrived, it was time for a diaper change. The hostess graciously escorted us to the birthday girl's nursery and offered the use of their changing table.

"Feel free to use whatever you need," she said as she left the room.

I put Lil Ma on the floor so I could look in my bag for supplies. I unzipped it and was met with chaos. Tissues, burp cloths and clothes spilled out. I pushed the mess aside and pulled out a diaper. While trying to keep Lil Ma from going into the closet, I kept looking for wipes and diaper cream. I knew they were in there, but I couldn't find them.

So I took the hostess up on her offer and used whatever I couldn't find in my personal black hole.

About an hour later, Lil Ma was getting cranky. I went back to the bag and fished around for what felt like ages before I found a baggie with baby food.

When I got home, I was determined to get the bag in order. It took less than a minute to figure out the problem. Instead of checking the bag's contents before packing, Hubby and I would just grab new supplies and cram them on top of the old ones.

Five focused minutes has my diaper bag ready for the next trip. Here's what I did.

1. Toss. I found two crusty spoons, a half-eaten jar of food and a gaggle of dirty clothes. I shudder to think how long those things were in there. Besides being a waste of space, they're just gross.

2. Reduce. While I do need a supply of diapers when I run an errand, it's highly unlikely that I'll need 10 of them. Cutting down to four or five saves space. I keep a few extra in the car for emergencies.  

3. Refill. My wipes container, once I found it, was empty. The zip bag I use for extra clean clothes was empty too. I refilled them both.

4. Compartmentalize. I have a gazillion cosmetics bags from various free gifts with purchases. Those are perfect for holding little items like tissue, lip balm, lotion, or diaper cream.

5. Repeat. To maintain order and keep science projects at bay, I'll have to do a clean out after each use.

I'm going to take my newly organzied bag on the road tomorrow, so I'll see how it goes. It will be a win if I can find the A&D ointment.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, August 02, 2013

Parents Say the Darnedest Things

Bill Cosby once had a show about the delightful things that children say. I never watched an episode, but I remember how much my dad loved it. I was a single girl focused on starting her career, and the thought of motherhood gave me the willies. The show had zero appeal.

Funny how things have changed. I'm now a mother of two energetic girls, and I'm exceedingly tickled by their interpretations of the world. Hubby and I were just laughing about how Mini Me once believed frogs rode schoolbuses thanks to a Leap Frog toy she had. Lil Ma hasn't learned to talk yet, but her expressions say plenty.

As comical as those moments can be, I sometimes find what I tell my children even more hilarious. Hubby and I have said things in the past eight years that I never thought would need to be said by anyone. 

Here's a sample from just this week:

"Don't eat your shoes!"

"We kiss with our lips, not our teeth."

"Is that poo on your hands?"

"Say goodnight to the beach ball."
This just might be my favorite of all time:

"Please don't step on Daddy's man parts."

What's the funniest thing you've said to your children?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, August 01, 2013

#31WriteNow Blog Challenge

When writing and I are in the midst of a love affair, things are good. Sentences and turns of phrase come to me without hesitation. Paragraphs feel as if they write themselves. And the best part? I like what I've created.

But writing and I aren't together right now. Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard feels like a chore. I often face a blank screen instead of inspiration.

Life has pulled us in two different directions. A new baby, a new job for Hubby, and a quasi-new job for me are just a few of the forces that have grappled for my attention. Over the past few months, I've been trying to get us reunited. It's been a series of fits and starts.

So when I ran across Awesomely Luvvie's post about a 31-day blog challenge for August, I was intrigued. The challenge is to post new content every day from now until the end of the month. No throwbacks.

After my initial interest settled, doubt began to creep in. I have too much to do. Work is starting to pick up. Hubby will be leaving town soon. The three posts a week I've been trying to write are hard enough; there's no way I can handle a post a day.

Doubt moved to worry: What if I fall off after a week? What if I can't think of anything to write?

Worry gave way to fear: What if I my writing is awful? What if the love affair never returns?

Our relationship may not become what it once was, or it could come back stronger that ever. I won't know, though, until I try. So I'm closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, and digging in.

I hope you will come along for the ride.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Another Baby?

When I was pregnant with Lil Ma, I often walked to a local diner for salted caramel milkshakes. During one of my trips, I ran into a man who I'd seen from time to time in my office building.

"Wow! You're just like my parents," he said.

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"You're having babies like stair steps, one right after the other."

"What?" My neck started to roll.

He gulped. "Don't you have three or four kids?"

"No." My eyes narrowed.

I wanted to throw my shake at him, but that would have been a waste of a perfectly good beverage.

When Lil Ma's was born, Hubby was out of town for work. My mom, who can no longer drive, had to hitch a ride with a friend. Until it was time to push, I watched TV and read magazines. (Epidurals are wonderful!) Mom held my hand while her friend gave Hubby the play by play via phone. It took less than five minutes.

"I've never seen a birth go so smoothly," her friend said. "You could probably do this again. Don't you want to try for a boy?"

I had to stop myself from cursing.

If I had a dollar for every conversation like these that I've had, I could buy Bentley.

The decision to have a baby is deeply personal, and only the parties involved know the factors that weigh in to the final decision. When you ask someone about family planning, you could be hitting a nerve.

I doubt that most people mean to be intrusive. I think they get swept up in the excitement that baby talk can bring. Before I had kids, I was guilty of that. And if you are reading this, please accept my apology.

The questions died down for a while, but now that Lil Ma is a year old, they're starting to pick up again. I want to address the queries gracefully, so I've refined my response:

If the girls wanted another little brother or sister, they would have brought one with them.

What do you say when asked about having kids?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 29, 2013

Separation Anxiety

Mini Me is back from her week-long trip with Grandma. They've headed south to the family farm every year since she was four. When she's a few years older, Lil Ma will go too.

I'm really looking forward to that moment, even though it's years away. This week is one of the high points of the summer.

The first time Grandma asked if Mini Me could go, I was hesitant. She hadn't been away from me for more than a few days, and this time, we'd be hundreds of miles apart. I ran through the gamut of possibilities. What if she fell and skinned her knee? What if she fell and broke her knee? What if she fell and lost her knee?

My mind has the ability to move from the rational to the ridiculous in a short amount of time. So, I had to force myself to focus on what was really bothering me:

What if she didn't miss me at all?

Back then, part of me believed that a kid didn't love you unless they were begging to come home the second the parents were out of sight. I agreed for her to go, packed her bags, and waited for the phone ring.

I didn't hear a peep from her all week. She came home with legs covered in mosquito bumps and a sack full of okra from Great-Grandma's garden. Then she spent the next seven days giving me a blow-by-blow of her adventure. 

"Did you miss mommy?" I asked. 

"Sure," my big girl said. "That's why I'm telling you about all the fun I had."

I now know that separation is necessary. It's actually a good sign if your kiddo is confident enough to try things in her own. It means that Mini Me is on her way to being a self-sufficient young woman, and I don't have to worry about fixing up the basement for our adult daughter who's never leaving home.

It also means that Hubby and I are treated to a well deserved break. We didn't get as much rest this year with Lil Ma still about, but past vacations included massages, movies, dinners and sleeping in. 

Every year when Mini Me leaves, I have a miniscule moment of guilt about enjoying our time apart. It passes quickly once I remember some wise words from my aunt.

"Kids can't be with their parents all the time," she said. "Besides, you can get on a kids nerves just as much as they can get on yours."

Yes, indeed. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Today's Selfie: Stripes!

Monday's post on my personal style has me more aware of my outfits this week. Fortunately the awareness has been good, because I like who I see. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, it also has made we want to take more selfies.

I am in a constant love affair with black/white patterned shirts. That love becomes near close to obsession if the pattern is a stripe. Horizontal stripes used to be a no-no for me, but the more flattering cut of t-shirts these days make them work. I'm also trying pattern mixing, which I find that I like very much. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fabulous Me: My Personal Style

Lil Ma's daycare teacher, Miss M, recently commented on an outfit I was wearing.

"That's really cute," she said. "I love the way you dress."

I smiled and thanked her for the compliment. Miss M is in her early 20s. During the past six months, she's had at least five hair styles and a variety of outfits.  I'm easily a decade older, and I remember going through a similar phase. Back then, getting dressed felt like an Olympic event. I'm happy, I thought, to be done with that.

That's when I realized something. At long last, I love the way I dress too.

It's taken me 30-something years, two kids and a slew of fashion faux pas to find a style that works for me. The bulk of the journey was spent adjusting my frame of mind. Here are the lessons I learned.

Know (and love) your body. I've got a small rack, a narrow waist and a backside that is one-two sizes bigger than everything else. I wasted years in college longing for a narrower hips, and from time to time, I pull out a Barely-B bra and wish it were a C. Most days, though, I get a peek of myself as I'm stepping out of the shower, and I think I look just fine.

Work the positive. Accepting my curves allowed me to focus on finding clothes that flatter. Bright color, sparkle (cool jewelry), and structure are my best friends.

Admire and adapt. Steering clear of trends entirely can result in a fashion rut. Pinterest, blogs and people watching help me keep my wardrobe up to date, but I have to be selective to make sure new pieces work with what's in my closet. It gets easier over time.

Know your limits. There are some things that just will not work in my case. If overalls or parachute pants ever make a comeback, I guarantee you that I will not be wearing them.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the word I would use to describe my style. I went through all of the fashion buzzwords. Classic, chic, et cetera. None of these seemed right. My style is simply me, and I'm good with that.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Five Minutes for Chores

My house is a wreck. This is nothing new, and I should be used to it by now. Barbie dolls, rubber ducks, and cloth blocks are scattered from room to room. The kitchen table is covered with mail, cups and empty plastic bags.  Puff cereal, stuck to Lil Ma's clothes from her last meal, falls to the floor as she walks.

The neat freak in me will not let it go. Clutter makes me restless. Before I can settle down for the night, I walk through the house, trying to get it into a tolerable state. Sometimes, it takes longer than I'd like.

As I watched Mini Me push a pile of toys to one side of the floor, I had an epiphany. She is old enough for chores!

So, instead of running around like a mad person with a garbage bag tied to her waistband (yes, this is how I clean), I spent five minutes writing up a list of quick chores that my eight-year-old daughter can accomplish.

1. Picking up toys. It only takes my daughter a couple of minutes to pick up the toys from our family room floor and toss them into nearby bins. As soon as Lil Ma understands the phrase "clean up time," I'm going to have her join in.

2. Emptying the trash. It's up to Dad to get the garbage to the curb, but Mini Me can empty the bins in our bedrooms and bathrooms once a week.

3. Loading and unloading the dishwasher. We have a good system of placing a dish in the washer immediately after use, but that system falls apart when the washer is full of clean dishes. Mini Me knows better than Hubby on where things go, so there's no reason she can't lend a hand.

4. Sweeping/vacuuming. She's tall enough now!

5. Putting away laundry. This is one of my least favorite chores, so I'm more than happy to pass this along.

6. Really cleaning her room.  For too long, I've let her get away with cramming papers and toys under her bed. She is old enough now to decide what stays and what goes.

Now that we have the list, Hubby and I have to be consistent and patient. I'll admit, I occasionally have to stop myself from fussing or redoing her work. The surprise for me was that my daughter wanted extra responsibility. I think it makes her feel more grown up. And, with the exception of putting away laundry, she seems to like it. I'm not sure how long that part of it will last, but I'll enjoy it while it does.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Best Laid Plans

I had my weekend all planned out. It was full of rather dull but necessary things that I had put on the back burner. Laundry. Dusting. Grocery shopping. Watering the plants.

Saturday started out as scheduled. I readied the girls and headed out for errands. Lil Ma made it through two stores with no semblance of a meltdown.

She saved it for when we got home. That, an unexpected work project, and a call from my dad, who had taken a tumble down a flight of stairs, closed out the rest of the day. Thankfully, my father is fine. He has a few minor aches and pains that will heal in a few days.

As I was lying in bed Saturday night, reviewing my list of undone chores, I decided that a lovely summer weekend should not be wasted on vacuuming.

"Let's go to the zoo tomorrow," I announced to hubby. He agreed.

I wanted to get there early so we could be on our way home by noon. Because none of us could get out of bed, we got there at 12:30, during the zenith of hot weather. Mini Me loved showing baby sis her favorite exhibits. The butterfly house was a highlight for them both.

A late lunch led to me not cooking dinner. An epiphany on how to improve my last-minute work project sent me back to my office. Mini Me kept me company by reading aloud excerpts of old Barbie magazines I saved from my childhood.

I still have laundry to do. Everything is dusty, and I forgot to buy ground turkey. The overly anxious me would be having a fit, but she seems to be on vacation. And that's fine with me.

I was, however, able to squeeze in a few minutes to water the plants.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Good Mama

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, my mother said something to me that I didn't quite understand at the time.

"Don't get all caught up in what makes a good mama or a bad mama. Just love your baby and have faith."

I nodded and rubbed my itching belly.

After Mini Me was born, I spent a year in New Mom Haze. Diapers, breastfeeding, and sleepless nights defined my existence. I read articles that said my baby should be doing one thing or another by a certain age, and I blamed myself when she didn't hit said milestone.

I compared myself to other moms, the ones who talked about using cloth diapers and had perfect babies who slept all night and walked at 8 months.

What a crock.

I wish I had known then what I know now. Sure, those babies slept all night, but they probably had to be in bed with their parents, which was often wet because the diapers leaked. Or, those parents ate Ramen Noodles out of paper cups because they couldn't find time to wash dishes.

In other words, nobody's perfect.

I see things more realistically the second time around. Lil Ma is a sweet girl. She giggles when you pretend to sneeze, and she is fascinated by socks. She also is quite stubborn. When Lil Ma doesn't get her way, she cries at a glass-shattering frequency. I have yet to figure out how to deal with that.

And that's ok. As my girls grow up, I will no doubt make mistakes. Instead of getting caught up in the "Good Mama, Bad Mama Drama," I will continue to love them and have faith that I'm doing what's best.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

A Few Words on Wednesday: Five Minutes for Daddy

This isn't the best photo, but I love it because it shows my favorite family moment. After dinner, Hubby gets on the floor, and the girls climb all over him. Little toes and knobby knees poke him in the eye, but he doesn't seem to mind.

They took it easy on him this time. Mini Me asked for his help designing a dress with her handheld video game, and Lil Ma joined in.

I doubt that I say it as often as I should, but I married a great guy. I couldn't ask for a better husband or father for my girls.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 08, 2013

Five Minutes for Meal Planning

Is there such a thing a a five-minute meal? Probably, but I have no idea how to cook one. I am learning, though, that investing five minutes in planning keeps me from puttering aimlessly in the kitchen. Pepperplate has a cool site and app that allows you to store recipes and build meal plans. You can import recipes from popular sites like Real Simple and Cooking Light, or you can manually add your own.  It does take some time to assemble your stash, but once you have it, you can create a plan and generate a shopping list in no time.

Reading the Plan: When I first got the app, I spent two hours inputting recipes and creating meal plans. That was all well and good, but they were of no use because I didn't look at them until I was ready to cook. Taco night quickly fell apart because I forgot to defrost the main ingredient. Spending a minute or two the night before allows me to make sure I have all the everything and that the ground turkey is defrosting overnight in the fridge.

Breakfast for Dinner: Every Wednesday, our family has breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, waffles, biscuits, eggs -- any breakfast item is eligible. The cooking time for most items, especially if you use premade mixes and batters, isn't all that long. I prefer to make breakfast from scratch, so I take a few minutes Tuesday night to measure out dry ingredients.

Crock Pot Meals: One thing I love about winter is the chance to pull out my crock pot and make a bunch of tasty soups and stews. Five minutes of opening, chopping and dumping turns into dinner 8 - 10 hours later. There are probably some summer meals that are crock-pot friendly, I just have yet to meet them. And, if you aren't familiar with crock pot liners, get involved. It makes clean-up super easy.

If you have a tip for getting dinner to the table in a snap, please let me know!

Friday, July 05, 2013

Five Minutes with Mini Me

Last night, my daughter picked up a magazine, got in bed next to me, and started reading. I put down my own magazine and watched her. Here was my baby, with legs crossed and ankles twirling, reading an article about birds.

When did she get so big?

The past 11 months have been a blur. Working a new person into our family has been an all-consuming whirlwind, made especially challenging by the fact that said new person's super power is the ability to cry for two hours straight.

No doubt, there have been times when Mini Me has felt a little neglected. I can think of several moments when I have been covered in spit-up, poo, tears, or a combination thereof, and I delivered this response to my questioning eldest:

"Not now. Maybe later."

Most times, my big girl seemed to take it in stride. Other times, though, she did or asked for something that she knew would grab my undivided attention. Like the time she said she was considering a return to thumb sucking.  (I replied than anyone who could rationalize thumb sucking did not need to practice it, and then I prayed that she would agree. Thank goodness she did.)

I've been kicking myself for not spending more one-on-one time with her, so when she asked if she could stay up a few minutes and read with me, I quickly agreed. It started as five minutes, but morphed into 15 as we discussed birds and butterfly gardens. We also talked about camp and her upcoming trip to Arkansas with her grandmother.

It was the best discussion I've had with her in a long time. I saw how much Mini Me has matured in the past year. She's funny, smart, extremely tenderhearted, and WAY to grown up to be eight. But I'm sure that's just the mom in me talking.

Of all the things I've tried to invest five minutes in, this is by far the most important.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Just Ask

I met my Hubby in 2002, and I almost let him get away. I had just wrapped a spin of dating that was both comical and sad. I needed a break. That, though, is a tale for another day.

At some point during our dating phase, my future hubby told me he was no stranger to housework. I fell in love shortly thereafter.

Two years later, we were living together with a baby on the way. Future Hubby didn't want me taking the stairs to the basement to do laundry, so he washed load after load complaint free.

What he did not do, however, was fold it. He routinely delivered me approximately five loads of laundry crammed into two baskets. I would thank him quietly, then spend the next two hours rolling my eyes while ironing wrinkled clothes.

This song and dance has continued occasionally throughout the years. After our second daughter arrived, Hubby stepped up his efforts to help around the house. Now he brings me eight loads of laundry in three baskets.

As I smoothed out a pile of Onesies, I wondered why I never asked Hubby to fold. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but the frosty reception I gave him whenever he dropped balled up laundry at my feet wasn't any better.

So I decided to give it a try. "Hey babe. Thanks for doing the laundry."

"You're welcome."

"Can I ask you something?"


"Would you mind folding the laundry after you wash it? If it sits too long unfolded, then I have to go back and iron it."


I couldn't believe it was that simple. I had wasted so much time grumbling, and all I had to do was ask. I wonder how many other things I've let bother me when it wasn't necessary.

Monday, June 10, 2013

5 Minutes for Me x 3

At the end of each day, right after both my girls have gone to bed, I kick into high gear. I spend about an hour doing as much as I can. I fold laundry, wash dishes, pack lunches, review emails and action items for work, pay bills, write a blog, or whatever else I can squeeze in.

If it sounds a little frantic and tiring, that's because it is. By the end of my spurt of productivity, I'm beat. I hit the bed or the couch in a fit of mental exhaustion. It's only been a couple of weeks since I restarted my five minute challenges, and I'm already over it. The idea was for me to feel less stressed out, not more.

So last night, I tried something different. After the girls went to bed, I sat down, and did NOTHING. No dishes. No bills. No laundry. I put my feet on the sofa and watched the first 15 or 20 minutes of the Karate Kid. (The 1984 version.)

I learned a couple of things:

1. The first 15 minutes of that movie are boring.
2. I am more productive if I allow myself to recharge first.

After watching Daniel lose his first fight, I started my evening routine. I was more relaxed while getting the work done, and for some reason, it didn't take as long. I finished in time to see Mr. Miyagi take down a group of bullies dressed like skeletons.

While Daniel was waxing Mr. Miyagi's surprisingly large car collection, I rethought the purpose of my five-minute challenges. They are not tests to see how big of a mountain I can cram into a mole hill of time. Each five-minute segment is a doorway into an experience. Sometimes, five minutes will be enough. Other times, it will be just the beginning. I just have to keep that in mind.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Five Minutes for Fashion

My morning can proceed one of two ways:

Option 1: I wake up on time. After practicing yoga (this is new), the girls and I get dressed with no drama. I make a smoothie. Mini Me has cereal, and then we leave, often with smiles. (Lil' Ma has breakfast at daycare.)

Option 2: I wake up. Maybe I'm on time, but I'm usually not. I then stand in the closet for 15 minutes pondering combinations of tops and bottoms. I try on several, and none of them work. I look at the clock, realize I'm running late, and proceed scurry around like a mad person. In the midst of this, Mini Me shows up in an frilly sundress to plant flowers at summer camp. Tears are shed as she drags herself to the closet to pick another outfit. No yoga. No smoothies. No smiles.

The difference, I've learned, is a five-minute investment on the weekend. For some reason, I'm much smarter about picking out a week's worth of clothes on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. My daughter is also better at this time, and she puts up little argument when I explain that sequins ballet flats don't work for a trip to the pool.

At 10 months old, my youngest is fine in whatever. I'm enjoying this while it lasts.

I will admit that five minutes can turn into 10 or 15 if I need to iron a item or two, but the amount of time I save each morning, and the smiles, are well worth it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Five Minutes of Om

The last time I did yoga, I was five months pregnant. I walked into a class that I had attended on a quasi-regular basis. The teacher, however, was not familiar to me. I explained my situation, and she told me to rest when I needed.

What she should have told me was to go home. I wasn't ready for her intense, work-up-a-sweat style. I spent most of the class in child's pose and the next two days in bed.

A newborn baby, sleepless nights, a stress fracture, a torn meniscus and carpal tunnel have placed yoga no where near my to-do list. (The story of all these injuries is quite unglamorous. I am simply getting older.)

When I announced the return of my five-minute challenges, my favorite Yogi reminded me to keep my shoulders down. After chuckling, I did a quick self-check. She was right. My shoulders were up to my earlobes.

Instead of hitting the snooze this morning, I got up and blew the dust off my yoga mat. I took 10 minutes instead of five, but it was sorely needed. I'm sure I used to be able to touch my toes. Nevertheless, I felt better after just a few minutes.

I spent the majority of the work day in meetings. After chasing and wrestling a squirmy 25-lb kid this evening, another yoga moment was in order. I squeezed in five minutes between putting my two girls to bed.

My shoulders are not yet back in there proper place, but they are on the way.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Changing My World Five Minutes At A Time (Again)

When I had this idea three years ago, I was inspired. I knew that if I put my mind to it, I could make a significant changes for the better. For a while, it was working.

So what happened?

One word: Life.

And once again, I'm at a phase where five minutes seem very precious, and these minutes hold the potential for impactful change. It seems to align quite well with my current search for fabulous.

So I'm starting this challenge anew, and I'm quite excited. I have no idea where this will take me, but I'm determined to see it through. Five minutes at a time.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Accepting Praise (or Finding Fabulous, Part 2)

During one of my daily Facebook check ins, I saw a post from a friend that said she was on a mission to slim down. I had to read the person's name twice, because I didn't think she needed to lose an ounce.

I happened to run into her later that day. She was petite as I remembered.
"Hey!" I said. " I saw your post earlier today. You look great! You want to lose weight?"

She sighed out a puff of air so tough it ruffled her bangs. As she was explaining to me that the weight loss was much needed, someone else approached and had the same reaction as I did. That person then turned to me. "You look awesome too! That's a great outfit."

I looked down at what I was wearing. Black pants, floaty white blouse, black blazer. I had a lot of trouble picking something that day, and I begrudgingly threw that outfit together. Just as I was about to lament, I caught the complaint at the back of my throat.

"Thank you," I smiled.

We spent a more few minutes talking about fitness. As we parted ways, I said to my friend: "I understand not being where you want to be, but I think you look great."

I got a smile. "Thank you. I must be hiding it really well."

This exchange got me to thinking. When do women learn to accept compliments with a grain of salt? I tried to think of the compliments I've received lately -- from friends, colleagues, my hubby. I gave a caveat to most of them.

That's over. I'm still in the process of defining what "fabulous" means to me, but I'm certain it includes gracefully accepting praise and believing that I deserve it.
So yes, my outfit was banging. I worked that blazer.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Finding Fabulous

A couple of years ago, a friend and I took two weekend trips - one to LA, and one to Seattle. I remember being glad to get out of town. I had been juggling a full-time job and a part-time teaching gig, so I was beat.

Not only did I feel run down, I think I looked it too. My hair was in that awful in-between stage -- too long to be short and too short for a ponytail. My highlights were fading, and I needed a relaxer. Add dark under eye circles and a not-so-glowing complexion, and you had what was by far my most haggard look.

In LA, the people were sunny, sparkling, and stylish. In Seattle, they were effortlessly cool. My fatigue was magnified while in both locations. My friend felt it too. She battled a demanding job and found it hard to take a break.

At some point during one those trips, we made a pact. I'm certain a good meal and a glass or two of wine were involved. We would dedicate ourselves to being fabulous.

By the time we returned home and fell back into our busy routines, the pact was all but forgotten. A pregnancy and a new job for hubby made for big changes in our household. My pregnancy was a high-risk one, thanks to chronic hypertension. Hubby's job was out of state and would keep him away for two weeks at a time. Being fabulous was not a priority.

A few things have happened in the last year and a half (Time flies!) that have me thinking about this again.

1. Pregnancy and prenatal vitamins gave me a head of shiny, thick hair. Post-partum hair loss left me with bald spots at the temples. Enter a talented stylist who cut in a bob with blunt-cut bangs to rival Michelle Obama's. And just for the record, I got mine first.

2. My friend gave me a gift card for a mani/pedi, which I promptly used. Then Ulta Beauty opened near my house, and they regularly send me coupons that are too good to ignore.

3. I decided to cut myself some slack. If I say no once in a while and ask my hubby for help, it's amazing how much more time I seem to have. More about these later.

I don't know if I'm fabulous just yet, but I think I'm well on my way.