Mommy Monday: Tiffany McLaughin

Mommas/ Soon-to-be Mommas,

My name is Tiffany McLaughlin, I am 27 years old and have been married 2 years to my wonderful husband. I’m here to let you know have no fear your NICU baby will grow, and will be strong enough to hold their own!

Our daughter Paige was born 7-7-16 after I was induced due to preeclampsia. She was born at 37 weeks, and it was a wonderful experience being induced. I had the epidural after being in active labor for 4 hours. I thought all was great and she was perfect. I was wrong, her blood sugars were low(common with preeclampsia) and she was jaundice.

 

Paige was rushed to the NICU and I was rushed in to emergency DNC as I had hemorrhage while Paige was being taken care of with the nurses. That’s another story in itself but it makes recovery from natural birth so much harder.

Paige weighed 5lbs 12oz, 19 in. when she was born and she was our little fighter. She was pricked a women up every hour for blood test, and feeds. I didn’t get to be with her the first 12 hours and I hated every moment. I cried, I called my mom, I was an emotional wreck. Little did I know the strength she was working up to be a strong hanging with the rest of them baby. 10 days is all it took for her to tell the nurses, “I’m ready to go home.”

Paige today is 19 months, taller than most kids her age, but skinny as can be. She is a talker, a lover, and not much of a “cuddler.” She has been sleeping through the night since she was 3 months old, eating since 6 months. I hope to keep this a short burst to tell you moms know, it will be ok. Every story has a rough spot. I’m here to tell you there is good that comes from the bad. Moms be strong, look for support from your family and SO. You can do this. If you have questions or would like to know more into our story please feel free to reach out to me. Iselt91@gmail.com 

Or request to follow me on Instagram: @minniemommatiff

Your fellow Mom,
Tiffany McLaughlin

Mommy Monday: Halley Foulds

Nearly four years ago I traded in my 8-5 job to be a Stay at Home Mom to my then one-year-old. Even though I loved my job and I loved working, the thought of staying home with my son was much more appealing. While I knew there would be a few challenges and hiccups during the transition, part of me also thought this would be a walk in the park. And it was……. Jurassic Park. (Just kidding!) Being at home definitely isn’t as easy as it looks or sounds though. You don’t just get to sit around all day cuddling the littles and watching soap operas (or trashy reality television in my case). Just like everything else, there are precious moments & hardships that come along with this job (see my post  ‘Surviving Two’ for a little more on that!). Here is a little glimpse into my life and some of what I have learned and experienced as a full-time Stay-at-Home-Boy-Mom.

I quickly learned that being a SAHM means that in addition to keeping your tiny human(s) alive and well, you will also be cleaning…pretty much all day long. When I started this job I had twice the house I have now. Naturally, I thought when we moved to a smaller house I would have less to clean (WIN!). Nope! That’s false. I still clean just as much and maybe even more because I have two tiny humans now and back then I only had one. If I’m not just doing general house cleaning (ie: vacuuming, sweeping, wiping of surfaces), I’m doing laundry, cleaning up toys (I’m ALWAYS cleaning up toys, pick one up and 4 more are tossed down!), cleaning up after a meal, cleaning up after the dogs, cleaning something I missed the last time I cleaned that area, cleaning fingerprints off of all the windows. ENDLESS CLEANING. It never stops. You would think with all that cleaning my house would be spotless all the time, too. Nope, more untruth. There are days that I vacuum the whole house and by the time I get from one end of the house to the other end, you can’t even tell I have vacuumed.  (I make cleaning fun by incorporating my kiddos. They are too young right now to realize that cleaning is a chore, it’s still fun to them, so why not let them help!)

Another thing I quickly learned, my days of getting dressed up and “ready” were mostly over. Kinda. I still straighten my hair most days and get blush and mascara on. However, if you find me in something other than a velour jumpsuit or yoga/workout pants, consider yourself lucky! In my opinion and as the ‘doer of all the laundry’, there is no need for me to get dressed in pants or jeans and a cute top and then later that evening when I go to workout, change into my workout gear. I’m not going to see anyone except for my husband and kids so I’ll just dirty up one outfit with snot and lunch particles and save the other for a day when I am out in public trying to blend in with the rest of the world. I call this life lesson, Embracing the Yoga Pants and I challenge other SAHM’s to this as well. You will thank me later!

Playing off the last lesson, I’m also guilty of doing this with my kids. Yeah, I said it. On the days that my oldest doesn’t have preschool and we don’t go outside of the house, I may or may not change my kids out of their pajamas! They don’t seem to mind and my thought is, “why dirty up another outfit and create more laundry?!”. Many of our days are pajama-casual days!

I learned that there would be plenty of days that NOTHING gets accomplished. Some days I had intentions of being so productive and the stars just weren’t aligned in my favor. I’m really hard on myself on these days because I have my own expectations of what I should get done and I’m a creature of habit, so when things don’t go as planned it makes my head spin and throws my whole day off. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how crazy those days make me, they still happen.

In all the madness, I have learned how thankful I am for my friends. I am especially thankful for the friends I have that are in similar situations as me and know the struggle. You know the one(s). The one you can take the kids over to their house, pop open a bottle of wine and vent to in your yoga pants while the kids play in the other room. THAT friend! Friends are essential in getting through not only motherhood but life and I feel so blessed to have great ones.

I also learned that panic and anxiety doesn’t stop when you become a SAHM. I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks and I was sure when I left my 8-5 job I would be leaving that behind as well. Wrong again. I still have anxiety and panic attacks, maybe not the same way I did when I was working outside of the home, but it hasn’t gone away completely and why would it? I’m still working… I still have a job. I just went from servicing insurance policies to full-time housekeeping, chef, teacher, accountant and chauffeur to my much younger bosses. The lesson: every momma has breakdown moments and a SAHM is no exception.

The most important lesson I learned is that this time with my children is priceless. It’s not always going to be perfect. Crankiness, teething, diapers and meltdowns (seriously, Surviving Two <– Read it) will get in the way sometimes. But still, occasionally, everything goes according to plan and we have our perfect days. What seems hard now will be over in an instant so do your best to cherish every moment!

To follow Halley or get in touch with her:

Halley@Momatello.com

Hello Mama!!

Well friends, it has been a while since I have posted! I apologize for being MIA for so long! It has been a crazy couple of months recently!

Christmas day, my husband and I found out that I am pregnant! It was a total surprise! We were not planning it, but are so happy to be expecting! If I’m honest, my husband has been ready for kids A LOT longer than I have! The thought of having my own kids has scared the shit out of me for a long time! I teach Human Development and am a counselor, I have seen the many, many things that can happen when a couple has kids too early, or for the wrong reasons, etc. PLUS I just realize how big of a life change the whole thing is and again, if I’m honest, I wasn’t ready to not be selfish!

 

Adulting is hard without kids! The thought of adding a baby to the mix terrified me, but I knew that I wanted to be a Mom eventually so, I didn’t rule them out completely! And really, is anyone ever REALLY ready for the big jump into adulthood?? (DON’T ANSWER THAT!)

So anyway I’m so incredibly happy to share my good news with you all now! I’m almost 13 weeks pregnant, so I’m still early in my pregnancy. I’m almost into the second trimester, which I’m so happy about! I have been nothing but TIRED the whole first trimester, but also happy to say, no morning sickness or any kind of sickness except for some pretty brutal headaches here and there.

My wonderful family and friends have been so supportive and helpful though throughout all of this so I am SO thankful to have them all in my life! I definitely couldn’t do it without them!

Which brings me to my next topic of conversation, the Hello Mama Box!
This awesome company sent me a free Hello Mama Box in exchange for my review about it! First of all, I LOVED IT!! The company’s motto is, “You can not pour from an empty vessel. We take care of Mama so she take care of everyone else!” Which I of course immediately loved, because I COMPLETELY agree, it is one of the things that I try and teach my clients, whether they are Mom’s or not!

A little more info about the company…

Hello Mama Box, was created as a labor of Love to allow Family & Friends to support “Mama Moments” that promote self- care through the use of organic & natural non-toxic products. We seek to transform society’s view of self- care for Mamas while creating a safe place to explore maternal wellness!
The box that I received was curated for me, since I am pregnant! It included: stickers for every 2 weeks of pregnancy starting with week 8 for documenting the progress of my growing belly, (I’ll post pics of that later!) Preggie Pops – for morning sickness, Bath Bombs (for 2nd trimester), Tummy Butter- which has to be my favorite thing in the box (it smells SO GOOD!), some nail polish and 2 quotes for encouragement/motivation, and finally an eye cover for beauty sleep!
I can’t wait to use the Bath Bombs SOON because they smell absolutely amazing! And like I said the Tummy Butter is my FAVORITE thing that came in the box, I’ve been using it daily to help avoid stretch marks (fingers crossed)!
I found out about Hello Mama Box from an online friend, Ashley Dunham from Bossfidence, who suggested I check them out and see what they were all about! So I did! I followed them on Instagram, and was loving everything that I saw, so I contacted them to see about it and now here we are! I’m hoping my Hubby will ok, a monthly subscription to the box in the very near future!! Because if not, I might cry! I love it!!
If you aren’t already following them on Instagram, GO DO IT NOW! And if you are a Momma or a Momma to be, they have options for both for monthly boxes to help you get your self care routine up to par! Because we all know that self care is INCREDIBLY important but it becomes even more important as a Mom because you now have other live humans depending on you! And you need to be at your best! And there is only ONE way to do that! TAKE CARE OF YOUR DAMN SELF!!
So make sure you go check them out!! And if you have any questions, feel free to ask me! If I don’t know the answer, I can find it out for you!

Look On the Bright Side

3 Simple Steps to Help You Look for & Appreciate the Positives

According to Rick Hansen’s Method – Taking in the Good, if we store more negative memories than positive memories, we start to see the world as depressing and/or threatening.

We as humans are mostly hardwired to remember the bad things and forget about all the good! Our brains tend to act like velcro for our negative memories and like “repellant” for positive memories. This is clearly not a good way to live life!

If you really think about it words, can have a “sticky” property to them, when someone calls us a name or makes fun of us or just makes us feel bad about ourselves, those things tend to stick with us more than the positive things that happen to us.

BUT! Not to fear! Hansen provides us with a way for us to make our positive feelings more “sticky” to us! Here are 3 ways to take in the good:

     1.) Actively look for the positive in every experience you have

2.) Hold those positive experiences in your conscious awareness             for as long as possible

3.) Savor the positive experiences- Remember the feelings you felt

If you’re not a part of my Smart Lioness Pride Facebook Group for women yet, what are you waiting on?! 🙂 You can watch a video on this topic that I did as well! If you are really trying to make some changes in your life, I have created a worksheet to help you to “see the good” in your experiences, or at least it will remind you that’s the goal, if nothing else! 🙂

Download the worksheet here:  Look on the Bright Side

Mommy Monday: Megan Rix

Mommy Monday: Megan Rix

from the Blog, “This Anchored Life: Measured by Love & Spoons”

This blog post goes out to all the moms raising strong willed child. Anyone who has a sweet, kind toddler, who sits quietly in a restaurant coloring or plays alone while you get things done will probably not understand this at all and will most likely think I am a horrible mom. But, I’m willing to lend my sassy pants beauty over for a trip to the grocery store in case you’re curious. Or just go to my google search history and see how many times I’ve typed the words, “activities for a strong willed child” and maybe that will give you some insight.

It’s funny. We say “strong willed” because calling your own kid an expletive that starts with an a and rhymes with shmashole is frowned upon in society. Don’t get me wrong, I love my little human so much it hurts. I would never try to coerce her strong willed character out of her. I know that it will make her into an assertive, brave, and confident young woman one day. But that doesn’t mean I am oblivious to how much she will test my human will on her way to becoming that strong young woman.

To begin, there’s consistent use of the word no. I’m not talking about the average toddler use of the word no. I’m talking about this being my child’s favorite word. A word that is used hundreds of times a day in defiance. A word that is said with brute force, attitude, and bellowed at a decibel that once again makes my neighbors (and anyone in public really) question my ability to parent. If you are a parent to a strong willed child, you know exactly what happens when you try to win the battle of “no” and challenge them to do something they have clearly indicated will not be done. I like to follow up these challenges with a bottle of champagne.          

Then there are the facial expressions. Little miss thang has a WTF face that literally makes me slightly afraid of her. It’s like she’s flipping you off with her eyes. It is even a running joke in my circle of friends that Mack is going to need Botox soon, because the wrinkles between her eyebrows will be so deep from frowning by then that she’ll have no hope by the time she’s 30. You receive this look anytime you try to initiate a conversation within 30 minutes of her waking up. When you get her juice-to-water ratio wrong. If you ask her to climb down from something or hand over a sharp object. If you try to stop her from eating dirt, marbles, plastic, legos, or prevent her from licking the sliding glass door. Or simply if she doesn’t like your face. Want to know what goes along with those facial expressions? Reread the paragraph above this one. 

 

 

No one is exempt from her attitude…most especially her big brother. My kids could not be any more opposite and what Mack possesses in sass, Grant carries equally in sensitivity. He’s the boy you’ll want your daughter to marry when they’re older, but right now he’s just an easy target. Mack knows exactly which buttons to push and spends her day antagonizing poor G by stealing whatever he’s currently holding, pulling his hair, kicking him in the face from her carseat, and my personal favorite, lying on the ground fake crying when he’s having a meltdown. No, not for attention. Because at 2, she is making fun of him by mimicking him.    

Mack is also fearless. To date, she has climbed the refrigerator, walked into my room with a butcher knife which she retrieved after scaling the cabinets with her toes, jumped off of every tall surface in our house, tipped the dining room chairs over a dozen times as she tried to tightrope walk across the backs of them. Fallen off the trash can. You get the idea. Daddy also had to build her a special frame on the floor for her crib bed to sit on because she could crawl out before she was a year old. 

Research you say? Yep, I’ve done that. I’ve read tons of mommy blogs and online articles. Basically the most consistent advice for not losing your mind is to put your seatbelt on, hold on for dear life, and harness patience from Tibetan monks. Oh, and love them like crazy, because one day that strong will is going to serve them abundantly in life. Until then, I will find the joy in watching her chug her sippy cup of “appy juice” and then hurl it to the ground like a viking warrior.

Because there is also an incredibly sweet and cuddly side to Miss Mack. One that melts your heart and leads you to cover her chubby little cheeks in kisses. She loves exclaiming that she loves you at random times, with as much gusto as her exclamation of “no!”. She loves when you read her books. She loves to share her snacks (on her terms). She loves to be rocked to sleep and while this can sometimes take up to an hour at night, I relish this time because in those quiet moments, when she’s snuggled in my arms, all is right in the world. I remember that the years when she will too big to sit on my lap will come fast and furious, just like her current attitude. I remember that even though she came at me with a right hook when I tried to put her hair in a ponytail, one day we will do all the things I still love to do with my mom. Even though I am married with my own children, my mom is still my best friend. I hope Mack looks at me that same way too.

So if you have a strong willed child, I see you. I understand you when other parents try to give you advice you’ve already tried, or tell you that it’s a phase, or that all kids are this way at some point. Side note, they’re not. I see the expression you make when people say, “just bring the kids with you, they’ll be fine.” I’m with you eating at home because restaurant trips are like the odds in Vegas. Not good. I feel your pain when you get looks of disapproval from strangers…because why yes, perfect stranger, I absolutely train my child to have epic meltdowns every time they come in contact with other humans.

One day, we’ll all sit back and smile when our strong willed children become CEO’s and professional athletes. The one thing I know for sure is that when people ask me if I am having any more kids.

My answer is one word.

No.     

SHARING IS CARING

Mommy Mondays – Rachael Freeland

October 16, 2017

Today’s Mommy Monday post comes to you from Rachael Freeland! Rachel has a blog called Werifesteria: To Wander through the Forest in Search of Mystery. Rachel is from Melbourne, Australia originally, but is living in Amsterdam currently. Before Rachel became a mother she was a therapist and yoga teacher, which is super cool since I’m a therapist and I love yoga and really wish I had the time to get the hours to become a yoga teacher! So anyway clearly we have a lot in common! After she had children, however Rachel became a blogger and writer! So now she shares stories from her life on her blog and she does a fantastic job doing it! I found her blog very enjoyable to read and you’re going to love her Mommy Monday story!! Just for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “Pram,” a pram is a stroller or baby buggy.  So on with the good stuff!! Rachael Freeland

Bookstore Mishap

I pulled a book out of the shelf, and flicked through the pages, desperately trying to ignore the fact that my children were far more interested in the bouncy balls the bookstore sold than the books themselves.  When did bookstores start selling toys anyway?  I added the book to the pile of books I was buying and then suddenly, my nose detected a very distinctive smell.  I looked at my daughters, the youngest had adopted the full nappy waddle.   I bit my lip, looking around for a bathroom, but there was not one.  We were at least a twenty minute walk from the apartment and nowhere near a public rest room.  Where did people go to pee in London?

I thought briefly about putting her in the pram and hot footing back to the apartment, but Grace doesn’t do quick, especially not when I need her to and Ava Rose has the most delicate skin.  If I didn’t get this nappy off her now, her bottom would be red raw in minutes.  I looked around, there was no one, not even a staff member.  We were completely alone on the top floor of the bookshop and had been for the last 10 minutes.  I scooped her up, holding her slightly away from my body and pushed the pram around, nope, definitely not in the art section.  Fashion, mmm, maybe.  Magazines?  No, too risky, too close to the glass hand rail and the happy shoppers on the ground floor.   I spotted the service elevator, perfect.   It hadn’t opened since we’d come out of it 20 minutes ago.    

I lay Avarose down in the pram, whipped off her pants, undid the nappy, rolled it up and pushed it to the side.  Quickly, I wiped her soiled bottom and put on a new nappy.

The elevator pinged and the doors slid open.  I looked up, guilt smeared all over my face, the foul smelling stench still emanating from the pram, but it was just an empty trolley riding between floors.  I breathed out.  I grabbed her pants, pulled them on and then picked up the soiled nappy.  The tabs, oh my god, the tabs.  The nappy unrolled, and the little ball of poo flew through the air.  My daughter, wondering what all of the excitement was, lifted her head up to have a look.  The little ball of poo bounced off the back of the pram and landed right where her head had just been.  The next bit happened in horrifyingly slow motion.  My daughter, having decided there was nothing of interest to look at, lay her head back down.   

I emptied the packet of wipes into the pram, trying desperately to remedy the situation, but poo, it turns out is very, very difficult to get out of hair.  I pulled at the strands of her fine, blonde, curls but all that did was rub it in further. I looked around, trying to figure out what to do.  If Grace caught sight of it, she’d surely vomit, and then we’d officially be blacklisted from every bookstore in the UK, although to be perfectly honest, if that little black box in the ceiling, that I’d only just noticed was actually a camera, I was pretty sure we’d not be welcomed back in a hurry.

I scrabbled around the carrier of the pram, desperately seeking inspiration.  Finally my hand seized upon her hat.   There was nothing for it, but to shove it on her head, leave the books we’d been going to buy and walk nonchalantly out of the store. 

I think we’ll steer clear of bookstores for a little while.

If you would like to get in touch with Rachael you can find her on:

Instagram: @werifesteria_s

Twitter:@werifesteria_s

And of course, her blog, Werifesteria 

Let us know in the comments if you have had a similar experience, or if you would like to share a story of your own for Mommy Mondays!!

 

Sharing is caring!! Pin this post to Pinterest if you loved it!!

Self Care Sunday

Self Care Sunday!

Here again already!

I have a poem for you today.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters 

By Portia Nelson

I walk; down the street

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in

I am lost… I am helpless

It isn’t my fault,

It takes forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street…

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in… it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

IV

I walk dow the same street,

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

 

If this resonates with you, why does it resonate with you? Does this make you see more clearly the problem you may be a part of when your relationships continue to end badly, or go badly to begin with?

If this sounds all too familiar to you, join my Smart Lioness Pride Facebook group and comment on the thread discussing this post or shoot me a message on Facebook by clicking here if you would like to discuss this more in a private setting.

Click here to get your downloadable version of the Hole in the Sidewalk

Mommy Monday – Shannon Lusk

The Smart Lioness’ – 1st MOMMY MONDAY!!!
Introducing Shannon Allen Lusk
Shannon, Lucy, & her Husband James

Hi!  I’m Shannon.  I am a wife, Social Worker (with a degree from Auburn University), daughter, sister, and of course, proud mommy of a sweet and squishy little 6 month old, Lucy.

 

Lucy, 6 months

Hillary asked me to write an entry for her Mommy Mondays blog a few weeks ago, and I’ve finally mustered up the courage to share some of my new mommy “insight” with y’all.  With a little encouragement (and pushing) from Hillary, I finally decided to write on one of the most essential parts of every relationship we have: communication.

*DISCLAIMER: I’m new to this whole Mommy thing, so please take what I say lightly. This is in no way meant to mommy-shame or imply that I have it altogether, because I certainly do not. These are just some of the thoughts I have as I navigate through this new and unfamiliar phase of my life.

Lucy, Flower Child 🙂

After my husband and I got married on August 29, 2015 we knew we didn’t want to wait long before starting a family.  And to our surprise we found out I was expecting about a month before our first anniversary.  I went through all of the emotions you would typically expect after seeing that positive pregnancy test, but I can very vividly remember thinking, “Gosh, I hope it’s a boy.”  I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself the worst teenager but I also know that I wasn’t the easiest to live with, and I was (and still am) scared to raise a teenage girl because let’s face it, karma really is a b**$h.  But low and behold, here I sit with a beautiful, healthy, and happy six month old baby girl that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

As soon as I found out we would be bringing home the daughter that I was already terrified of, I decided that I would work my hardest to let her know how much I would love, accept, and support her.  I have had enough education and experiences (as a Social Worker) to know that communication between children and their parents will significantly impact the child’s life; your past relationships will always influence your current and future relationships.  But how do you communicate with a child who can’t speak yet and (probably) doesn’t understand a word you’re saying?

 

Before we get into that, I think it’s important to emphasize that every child is different and every mother is different, so as a result, every communication style between a mother and her child will be different.  The methods that work for Lucy and I may not have the same results for you and your child(ren).  Therefore, I believe it is important to develop your own style of communication that will help mold these important relationships. 

I’m sure you have heard of The Five Love Languages written by Gary Chapman (which I am a huge fan of and highly recommend you reading), but you may not know that he has also written The Five Love Languages of Children.  In the book overview he writes, “Everything depends on the love relationship between you and your child. When children feel loved, they do their best… Discover your child’s primary language and learn what you can do to effectively convey unconditional feelings of respect, affection, and commitment that will resonate in your child’s emotions and behavior.”

 

This is just one of the many resources floating around that can help you decipher how to better communicate with and love your child(ren), but again we’re back to the question I had earlier: How do you communicate with a child who can’t speak yet and (probably) doesn’t understand a word you’re saying?

To answer that question that haunted me for most of the 10 months of my pregnancy (that’s not a typo, 40 weeks = 10 months so don’t believe any of that 9 month garbage they tell you) I reflected back on my teenage years.  You know, back when I knew everything and thought my parents were clueless.  And I realized that, if I had known that my parents actually experienced, and understood many of the same emotions (and hormones) that I was trying to navigate through as teenager, maybe, I would have heeded their advice more often than I did. 

So I came up with the idea to write a journal to Lucy, one entry each month for the first year of her life and then at least one entry per year (I plan to have some “bonus entries” thrown in every now and then).  My strategy is to give the journal to her on her 16th birthday (when her teenage rage will most likely be at its peak) so she will hopefully understand that like her, I too have real emotions and can possibly relate to many of the hardships that she will no doubt experience in her teenage years, and even beyond. 

As of now, most of the entries are just chronicling the milestones she’s reaching each month, but I always make sure to include some of my hopes for her future.  I try to encourage her independence and reassure her strengths as a woman – I pray that she will fall in love with herself before she falls in love with anyone else.  I also write often about my marriage so she will be able to recognize and engage in healthy relationships of her own once she is ready.  And although I write about my life choices, I encourage her to choose her own path – one that will make her the happiest, and I assure her that I will always support the decisions that she makes.  The main goal I hope to achieve from this journal is for Lucy to one day be able to read all of the important things I may not get the chance or take the time to tell her.

 

Lucy with her journal

 

Another creative communication technique that may work for you (and something I intend to do as Lucy gets older) is writing letters to each other on a regular basis.  I think this is such a fun and non-threatening way to encourage honesty between you and your child(ren).  It opens up a line of communication that is constant and confidential, and also protects you from making the “Oh my gosh!” face in front of your kid if/when they drop some really shocking information on you. 

The Center for Effective Parenting states that, “Effective, open communication takes a lot of hard work and practice. Parents should remember that they will not be perfect. Parents make mistakes. What is important is that parents make the effort to effectively communicate with their children starting when their children are very young. The result will be a much closer, positive relationship between parents and their children.” 

Like I mentioned earlier in the post, these ideas may or may not work for you and your child(ren).  You might already be dealing with teenagers, or don’t have the time to sit down and write on a regular basis, or writing just may not be your forte.  But I challenge you to find a way to increase the communications you’re currently having with your child(ren), because it can only improve your relationship.  There is a plethora of resources online, or you could reach out to Hillary Ivey Montijo @thesmartlioness – she is an EXPERT in communication! 

If you have a creative and effective form of communication that you want to share, please comment below.  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Thanks for reading,

      Shannon Allen Lusk

Self Care Sunday

20 Things To Give Yourself Permission for:

1.) Rest
2.) To laugh
3.) To play
4.) Make mistakes
5.) To say “no”  to demands on my time that are simply draining
6.) To say “yes” to what I want
7.) To fulfill my childhood/lifelong dreams
8.) To ask for what I want
9.) To be who I am
10.) To try again
11.) To have fun
12.) To design my own life
13.) To ignore the haters
14.) To stay focused on what’s important to me
15.) To be whatever body shape I want to be
16.) To be imperfect
17.) To ASK FOR HELP
18.) To stop caring what others think of me
19.) To write a shitty first draft
20.) To create

Friday Feature – Megan Butler – Green Gables State of Mind

Reading for a Break from the World

By Guest Blogger: Megan Butler

A Quick introduction about Megan, from me, Hillary the Smart Lioness 🙂  So I don’t know if you have discovered Megan Butler’s blog, Green Gables State of Mind, BUT if you LOVE to read, or even remotely interested in giving reading another shot (It’s good for your cognitive health & ultimately is linked with the decreased likelihood of developing Alzheimers Disease.) Megan will be able to at least convince you to TRY, because she’s such a good writer and just really knows how to explain a book in the most perfect of ways!

But back to the point!! Megan and I grew up together in a small private school from 1st grade until around 9th grade (when I to moved to public school). Megan and I weren’t besties or anything but I do remember going over to her house once when we were in maybe middle school? I don’t know, but I remember having fun! Plus, I admired her a lot for her intelligence and just overall joyful attitude she always seems to have. When I came across her name on Instagram, I thought, “holy moly!” Its been FOREVER!! Which then lead me to find her blog, then lead me to binge read like, all of her posts because she is an amazing writer and I couldn’t stop! SO, naturally I reached out! (just kidding, not natural, it took some mustering of courage, no one likes rejection!) But I did it! And here we are!

So a little more about Megan..

Megan is a Dentist in Atlanta, Georgia now, but she and her husband have lived ALL over the country, which, I think, is SO cool! But let’s get on with the good stuff!!  I asked Megan to do a guest blog for me on some good reading for an escape, since anxiety and stress seem to be at an all time high lately!! Reading is a great coping skill/mechanism that is both healthy and fun IF you find the perfect book for YOU! I asked and she did not disappoint!! ENJOY!!

Megan Butler, Guest Blogger

Hi y’all, my name is Megan and I write a blog over at Green Gables State of Mind.  I absolutely love to read and find book recommendations for friends and family, so when Hillary asked me to write a post I jumped at the chance!

Do you read for an escape? I know I do. Although I also enjoy reading books to learn new things or to motivate myself for self-improvement, sometimes I just need a break from the stress of work or bills and just enjoy a really good story.  So when Hillary asked me to write a book post for y’all, I thought it might be helpful to post a synopsis of some of the books I’ve been reading lately! Most of these are newer releases  that have been receiving a lot of buzz and should be available at your local bookstore!

I picked a few different genres to give a good bit of variety depending on your reading “mood.” Hope you find a book you love! Happy reading everyone.

For a novel of female friendship and a coming-of-age story, check out
Marlena by Julie Buntin

What’s it All About?

The title character in Marlena and her best friend, Cat, avoided the social drama of their own high school because they were entirely too busy with their own.  Cat has recently moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with her mom and brother after her parent’s divorce.  Cat is forced to leave her beloved private school friends into a not-so-savory area of her new town, in an unfriendly high school, while dealing with the fallout of her parent’s separation and her own mood swings. She has decided she will shed her former identity with her former home – no more of her studious, preppy persona. She deceives her mother (who is busy dealing with her own grief via boxed Franzia) and, instead of attending school for the first few weeks, ditches it to hang out with Marlena and her group of friends.

She tries alcohol for the first time, which shapes her adulthood in unexpected ways. She has her first major boy crush and wades into the waters of flirtation and dating. Her makeup-free face becomes rimmed with eyeliner and too much blush, her attitude becomes surly, and in general becomes a mostly-insufferable adolescent.  Some of the passages in the book take me back to my own fashion disasters (BLUE EYESHADOW, y’all). I also would cringe while reading the scenes between Marlena and her mom, remembering all those times I snapped back or said hurtful things to my own mother. Most of all, the book takes me back to the time when everything felt so BIG and IMPORTANT, like what type of binder I used at school and whether or not so-and-so talked to me at the football game.

This book is about the memory of Marlena – because, as you’ll find out on the front book jacket (no spoilers I promise!), Marlena dies within the year by drowning…at least that’s what the police believes. We are hearing flashbacks from adult-Cat, an NYC career woman with a fiancé and a dependence on martinis, as she reflects on her fifteen-year-old view of Marlena versus the current, adult perception.

Initially, Cat was so entranced by the seeming exoticism of Marlena’s life that she overlooked the darker, grimier aspects of it. Cat and Marlena’s intense bond stemmed from their mutual (and differing) demons. Like Cat, Marlena’s family was disjointed and dysfuntional – though to a much greater degree. Marlena’s father was involved in drug dealing and often left his younger son in the care of his daughter.  As their next door neighbor, Cat often witnessed the family’s comings and goings, and held a deep fascination with Marlena’s life – as a teenager, Cat found it exotic and adventurous and dangerous in an alluring way. As an adult, Cat realizes how truly horrific Marlena’s life actually was.

Cat, despite her facade of being street-wise, was actually incredibly naive. Despite spending virtually every day with Marlena, Cat didn’t fully understand the repercussions of Marlena’s strict pill schedule – an upper in the morning, a downer after lunch and dinner or whenever things were getting a little too tough – and her backpack version of a pharmacy.  It’s only when looking back, seventeen years after her death, that Cat begins to understand the gravity of Marlena’s life, and blames herself for her passive role in her death.

Despite the dark subject matter and age of the main characters, this book doesn’t delve into the schmaltzy or overwrought. The author is fully aware of the ease in which this book could dive into eye-roll inducing angst, but she cleverly avoids it with her chapters in the present day, when adult Cat reflects on the moodiness of her 15-year-old self:

Great loneliness, profound isolation, a cataclysmic, overpowering sense of being misunderstood. When does that kind of deep feeling just stop? Where does it go? At fifteen, the world ended over and over and over again. To be so young is a kind of self-violence. No foresight, an inflated sense of wisdom, and yet you’re still responsible for your mistakes.”

So, if you’re looking for a gritty, intense teenage drama with adult themes, this book is an intriguing choice.

…For a feminist and funny tale, check out:

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

What’s It All About?

Young Jane Young is a slightly lighter turn from Marlena, though it still packs a punch. Young Jane Young stars Aviva Grossman, an ambitious and intelligent Congressional intern in Florida who has an affair with her well-regarded but very married boss and blogs about it in the similar vein to Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. When the affair is exposed, the Congressman doesn’t get the blame, but Aviva does, and her political career self-destructs before it truly begins. She becomes a laughingstock of the political world and a slut-shamed ex-employee. Forced to reinvent herself in Maine, Aviva changes her name to Jane Young and starts over. However, as her daughter grows up and Jane again considers public service, her past comes back to haunt her once again.

Though this story line sounds like it could potentially become over dramatic and cheesy,  it doesn’t because Ms. Zevin is too talented of a writer to slip into those pitfalls. Instead, this book takes a heaping amount of humor and a perceptive outlook on the common human weaknesses we all have to write a feminist, realistic story of how we can never truly outlive our past. This novel also exposes the double standard and misogyny that politics (as well as a litany of other career paths) display toward its female employees. Lastly, the story makes us question our tendency to quickly judge people based on a headline or rumor, without examining or asking questions from the other side.

My favorite aspect of this novel was how the story was split amongst the different female characters of the story – Aviva, Aviva’s daughter Rachel, and the Congressman’s wife – and their different experiences as women in this story. Each woman is incredibly real, human, and flawed, which adds a dimension of realism to a story that could easily seem oversensational. The true message behind feminism, after all, is the appreciation of the different life experiences of all women, and this story brings that idea to the forefront.

…For a Mediteranean romance, try

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

What’s it All About?

Confession: I absolutely love books set in far away places, and I partially love this book just because it was set in the area of Italy where my husband and I went on our honeymoon. Cinque Terre is just as much of a dream in reality as it is in stories, friends! But there are other legitimate reasons to love this novel for an escape! The story begins in 1962 along the Italian coastline, where an American starlet checks into a cozy inn, seeking an escape during her final days.

The story also flashes forward to the present day, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot — searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

This book has an extensive and eclectic cast of characters (including Richard Burton of all people!) and plays with themes of a fantasy world vs reality, of “what could have been” versus “what life actually is.” Although it is a romance story at its heart, it is also about relationships between friends and family. The main character, Pasquale, is well developed and intriguing, and the story is a quick read without feeling too light or superficial.  Though there are definitely heavier and dramatic sections of this book, this novel really is a perfect weekend escape read.  

…For a deep family drama that will make your life feel “normal” (or boring) by comparison, read:

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

What’s it All About?

Celeste Ng is a powerhouse author who had a blockbuster hit, Everything I Never Told You, a few years ago. She is known for her deep character studies of family life in suburban cities, and the hidden dramas all people have in the privacy of their two-story homes.

Her latest book, Little Fires Everywhere, was released on September 12 and seems to be another family drama smash hit. Set in the planned community of Shaker Heights, Ohio, this story opens with a house that has been burnt down, and then flashes back to the events leading up to the arson. It seems the main story centers around the children from two families – the Richardsons, who thrive on order and rules, and the Warrens, who rent their house from the Richardsons and throw rules out the window.

The four Richardson children are all fascinated with Mia Warren and her teenage daughter Pearl – of their bohemian lifestyle of constant moves and art projects, of Mia’s combination of odd jobs and creative endeavors, of Pearl’s thrift shop threads and Mia’s mysterious past. Conversely, Pearl is attracted to the privileged stability of the Richardson’s home – their morning rituals, their spring break ski trips, their clean houses and weekly schedules.

This unlikely friendship between two families is threatened when a third family (who are friends with the Richardsons) attempts to adopt a Chinese-American baby, and Mia and Mrs. Richardson take opposing sides in the custody battle.  As a result, Elena Richardson begins to dig into Mia’s past – with dramatic consequences.

This book was a complete page turner for me, and kept me hooked from beginning to end. Moreover, it had a great balance of humor, social critique, and drama. I highly recommend!

Hope one of these books fits your reading personality. Don’t hesitate to let me and Hillary know what you think. Plus, now it’s your turn – what books do you recommend for a little escape from reality? Can’t wait to hear your suggestions!