Perfect Parenting

Remember those months before becoming a mom … well besides the sickness and endless trips to the bathroom … those months you thought about what kind of parent you would be.

My husband always said I would be the easy parent – always giving in to my children’s demands, a “softie”. He thought he would be the “tough dad”. I envisioned myself making homemade meals every night, doing activities with my kids, our house being organized, and working out just like I used to – I would be the “perfect parent”.

As soon as my first baby was born, my daydream of “perfect parenting” flew right out the window.

Like all new moms, I was hormonal, exhausted, and overwhelmed – not a good recipe for “perfect parenting”. Then I started second guessing every decision I made and every action I took for our new baby. As our kids get older the decisions get harder and I wonder; am I disciplining them correct? Am I saying the right things? Do I play with them enough? Am I teaching them what they need to know?

As moms we constantly feel at war with ourselves. In our own minds we can never do enough for our children. But what is “perfect parenting”?

Some people think “perfect parenting” is – staying home with your babies; pulling yourself together with full faced makeup before the kids get up; having all laundry done at all times; keeping a clean house; planning and executing specific activities with your children; having homemade meals and premade snacks; reading stories and learning all day long; getting the kids into bed without a fight; going to bed to get 8 hours of sleep.

Other people think “perfect parenting” is – working full time to provide; having a nanny or babysitter; Chapstick is the only makeup a mom needs; doing laundry once or twice a week works; making sure the kids eat something; a mom sacrificing all her needs.

Here’s the reality – there is no such thing as “perfect parenting”. “Perfect parenting” is a myth and does not exist. Even if you have the perfect day planned, there’s a really good chance your child will throw an epic tantrum or attempt to eat something they’re not supposed to. Most days motherhood is about surviving, let alone perfection. Every family has a unique situation – It’s okay for moms to work and it’s okay for moms to stay home. Only you know what is best for you and your family.

We are our biggest critics and anyone who says being a parent is a breeze and their kids are perfect is lying. Society’s unobtainable expectations are overwhelming enough, then we have veteran moms judging our every move – keep in mind anyone who expects you to be their version of “perfect parenting” needs to wake up and smell a diaper. There will be days pizza is the best you can do and moments you literally want to pull your hair out – good days and bad.

We sometimes think – I should be doing more. But the majority of the time we physically, emotionally, and mentally have already given motherhood our all – we’re already doing a stellar job. And for anyone who is bold enough to think our best isn’t good enough, is the furthest thing from “perfect parenting”.

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My secret to fast growing, strong, long hair … vinegar rinses!

After having babies, many women have the same complaint (besides our bodies never looking the same) – MY HAIR IS AWFUL!  When I got pregnant with my first baby, my hair started falling out – I don’t have much hair to begin with so it was a huge problem! Thankfully it started growing back during my pregnancy but after labor and delivery, it started falling out AGAIN.  My mane had short, stick straight regrowth mixed with patchy spots and other normal long hair.  Throw that in with post-baby body issues and pale anemic skin – I was desperate for something to make me feel and look better!

Refusing to let a patchy mullet be my fashion destiny, I again went on the hunt to fix my hair and course friendly to my Mogul Mom budget. 

Pinterest became my best friend during pumping sessions and I discovered natural remedies to make your hair grow faster. Skeptical as usual, I opted for one of the easiest remedies that incorporated one ingredient I could find in my cabinet – VINEGAR.
The Recipe:

  • Mix 1 part vinegar (apple cider vinegar is the best but white vinegar works great too) and 2 parts water.
  • Pour on your scalp and let fall onto your hair during the “final rinse” in the shower. Be careful to not get the vinegar rinse in your eyes and/or in your mouth for obvious reasons.
  • Let the vinegar sit for a couple minutes then briefly rinse again. Done!
  • Note: I also keep a spray bottle of white vinegar in my cabinet and spray it on my hair when I get out of the shower. It helps to dissolve iron and residue left over from our extremely hard water. This was recommended to me by a professional and its my go to!
Don’t worry the smell will go away and you won’t smell like a salad for too long! And no – your hair will not dry out!
 
How it works to grow hair faster: The vinegar naturally balance the pH of your scalp and gets rid of any residue build up from product or life in general. This gives your scalp the best environment and surface to grow and regrow hair. Vinegar also works to seal your cuticles making your hair stronger while removing excess crud in your locks.  
 
With a little patience this will give anyone great results! I noticed my hair was better immediately (and grew faster eventually). I use Meijer brand because its better on my budget, but there are other brands of all natural vinegars. We have horribly hard water and vinegar rinses has been the best way to prevent buildup and has kept my blonde hair blonde!  My family and friends have also noticed a difference in the thickness of my hair and the extra shine since starting this simple treatment. My hair is the longest and healthiest its ever been and I give all the credit to vinegar rinses … and Pinterest. 

How to have a successful garage sale

Our family’s first garage sale! Fabulous idea or epic failure?

My husband and I have been together for 8 years – That includes 5 years of marriage, 4 moves, and 2 babies.  Not to mention our generous families are always gifting us with secondhand treasures and other great nuggets to add to our home. All of this adds up to an accumulation of STUFF.

We literally had STUFF spilling out of our house and it was time – time for a garage sale.

My first order of business was to set a timeframe for when this event would happen, then a date.  Having a set date for our garage sale gave my husband and I (most importantly my husband) a deadline for when our STUFF had to be out of our house and priced to sell.

As soon as I realized a garage sale was inevitable, I set out a couple totes/boxes labeled “garage sale”.  This made de-cluttering areas of the house a breeze, even though my husband constantly complained about my “tote problem”.  I was able to gradually go through things and put them into a controlled garage sale environment.  Of course my husband didn’t go through his stuff until the day before – better late than never.  Then all he had to do was bring the boxes and totes outside!

Pricing my garage sale items was tricky. How much for clothes? What about big ticket items? When pricing STUFF for your garage sale, keep in mind people are looking for deals and there’s a really good chance you will not make thousands of dollars selling your STUFF.  If you want something gone – price it to go.  If you’re on the fence price it a little higher.  I had a red wall clock, brand new, I loved it but hadn’t used in five years.  Normally I would’ve priced it at $3, but since I wasn’t sure $10.50 it was! Someone else loved it too and they paid my asking price! Guess it wasn’t meant to be in my house anymore.

When having a garage sale, location usually correlates to foot traffic.  One way to help get people to come to your garage sale is to include other families! My grandmother, brother, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law all put some of their STUFF into the garage sale.  I listed it on Craigslist and on our signs as a “5 Family Garage Sale”.  Even though our location wasn’t the best, we had steady foot traffic our first day! We also set most of our big items (strollers, tables, lawn furniture, etc.) out front to attract people driving by.

A family garage sale can be tricky.  What if a family member wants something you are selling? Do you just give it to them or discount it even more? What if you see something you’re interested in?  Garage sale etiquette – if something is under $5 just give it to a family/friend. If its a big ticket item, tell them how much you want for it and discount it a little bit (your family shouldn’t expect something you could sell for substantial money for free).  If you’re the one looking to purchase, always offer to pay full garage sale price and don’t be offended if they accept; some people really need the money and the last thing you want to do is embarrass family by price negotiating.

Some of garage sale goers like to haggle prices. “You have this priced for $2, would you take $.50?” Or the persistent bundler “I’ll give you $3 for all this STUFF.” My husband came to the conclusion I have zero backbone for hagglers. “Okay ummm sure.” (Its amazing I was successful during my brief stint in sales). When a garage sale shopper is blatantly attempting to take advantage of me, I tend to hold my ground better – “You know, my grandma is pretty firm with her prices.” Be prepared for people to try to negotiate your already low prices! Approach each customer differently – some people just love the rush of haggling prices while others truly do not have the $ and need something. Trust your intuition and decide how low you really want your prices to go!

Here’s my advice to having a successful garage sale:

  1. DO NOT ACCUMULATE a bunch of stuff – then you don’t have to have a garage sale.
  2. Plan ahead. Get some totes/boxes and label them “garage sale”. Gradually go through rooms and closets in your house. We started a couple months before and knew exactly what we were planning on selling. Garage sale totes/boxes alleviated most of the work and organizing!
  3. If you can, plan ahead and set a date for your garage sale. This will give you a deadline to get all your garage sale STUFF organized. We did ours Friday from 8am-5pm and Saturday 8am-noon.  
  4. Use masking tape for pricing. If you have more than one family involved put their initials on their price tag. Use a piece of paper and keep track of who sells how much. 
  5. Price stuff to sell (unless you’re on the fence!) or its a big ticket item (ex: furniture).
  6. Set stuff up the day before if you can! This includes garage sale posters. 
  7. Make sure you have change ($) before your garage sale. People usually expect to get change if they give you $. 
  8. If you don’t sell big ticket items, take pictures while they’re set up and try to sell them on Craiglist or Ebay.  I refused to negotiate my asking price for big ticket items, I knew I could get my asking price elsewhere.  
  9. Donate low priced knick-knacks to Goodwill or other locations that benefit low income families. Home good items can be donated to a Habitat for Humanity’s Restore location. 
  10. Try to get it all out and don’t bring anything back into your house! The goal is to declutter – not reclutter!
If anyone else has tips for having a successful garage sale, please feel free to post!! 

Working Out vs. Survival

Before having babies I was a fitness queen – working out 6 days a week which included workout classes, walking/running, and yoga.  My free time was filled with time for vanity.  Staying active and working out has always been my coping mechanism for life’s stresses and a way to keep myself sane (and of course the endless effort to fit into a bathing suit).

When you find out you’re having baby, fitness focus quickly shifts to survival strategies. Most new moms to be are now concerned about getting through the day without an embarrassing barfing episode or hoping coworkers don’t think they have narcolepsy.  Many mornings during my first  trimester I begged God to give me energy to get out of bed and then prayed I could pick myself off the floor to make it to work.  I chewed gum and sucked on candies frantically hoping my nausea wouldn’t spit out during an important meeting, or worse, all over a client.  By the time I survived a long day at work, I could barely think about dinner, let alone put on shoes to workout.  During those first weeks of pregnancy all moms at one point think – “If I can just survive today…”

Some lucky women get energy back during pregnancy – Now what?  Should I attempt to stay fit? How much activity is too much?  Will I hurt my baby?  As a mom to be this will be one of our first experiences second guessing if we are doing the right thing for our child (unfortunately this insecurity only gets worse!).  My pregnancy workout advice – do research, talk to your doctor, and whenever you feel uncomfortable or in pain – STOP! With my first two pregnancies going to work was enough of a workout and stretching sufficed as a stress reducer.

After pregnancy knocked me off my fitness throne, I was inundated with a baby.  This little person genuinely needed me (and my boobs) 24/7, not to mention there is no tired like new “Mommy tired”. Once I was cleared to workout I suddenly had this overwhelming sense of guilt every time I even thought about working out – Am I just being vain? I have baby now and I should have to sacrifice everything right?  It took me a good year to realize – NO.  My post baby body wasn’t the same (I have the bladder of a 90-year-old) and now the one time fearless fitness queen was absolutely terrified to workout.

Last night I finally bit the fitness bullet and went to my first post baby workout class in almost three years (thank you Groupon for the awesome deal!).  On the way there I called my husband and told him how oddly nervous and scared I felt – he sweetly reassured me.  Much to my surprise, I survived a kettle-ball class and for the first time in awhile felt an immediate sense of accomplishment. And guess what, I leaped over the first hurdle – the first workout – the hardest one of all.

After having two kids I may not be able to jump rope without fear of peeing my pants and I might be able to do only 1.25 pushups – but I have finally worked up the courage to workout!  Even if its only once a week, us Moms deserve it and our kids deserve a healthy mom.  In the midst of surviving, we have to remember that sometimes we have to put a mask on ourselves first in order to help others.

Even though pregnancy may temporarily knock us off our fitness thrones, after surviving the fall and with a little bravery, we can fight our way back to take our rightful seat … even if its one day a week.

Believing in hummanity

Before having children my husband and I truly asked ourselves ,”Do we want to bring children into such a cruel and dangerous world?” “Why on Earth would we want to have babies when the human race has evolved to be heartless and selfish?” We’ve all seen daily horrific acts of violence and terrorism playing out on the news and sometimes in our own communities.  School used to seem like the safest place for a child – now parents have to worry about cyber bullying, bomb threats, shooting sprees, and other human created terror where our babies are being educated – not even movie theaters or marathons seem safe anymore. “Who in their right mind would want to have kids in such a scary world?!”Its easy to be scared and hard to be brave.

After much thinking and soul searching, my husband and I came the same conclusion – even though the world is frightening, we would do our best to raise children who had capabilities to change the world for the better. Lofty goals, yes, but shoot for the moon and even if you miss you’ll land in the stars. We knew and hoped that how ever many children God blessed us with, they would have every opportunity for greatness.

The world only seems like a dark, dismal place if we let it.  Our world is what we make of it for our children. Doom and gloom stories lead newscasts.  A professor of mine once proclaimed “If it bleeds it leads!”. When are media outlets going to realize heart touching stories are just as compelling as heartbreaking sagas?! I want to hear about the lady who, out of the goodness of her heart, raised thousands of dollars for a family in need … I know these stories are out there! We deserve to be informed (with unbiased, uncensored, truthful facts); we don’t always want bad news – GIVE US SOME GOOD NEWS! Help people believe in humanity again.

Besides the news, us moms have people in our daily lives constantly forcing us to question our mothering skills and our direct link to humanity.  Its amazing how a mother-in-law, grandmother, or even a friend can make you feel like the worst mother in the world.  Aren’t they supposed to be in our corner? They surely know how hard being a mom is? Maybe we don’t give them enough credit, or maybe we set our expectations for them too high.

Despite all the negativity in our society, there is great news – there are normal people in the world! People who empathize with others, compassionate people whose spirits and peace far outnumber the evil and spiteful.

Just when I couldn’t become more disillusioned, I finally had a girls night out and met a girl who was 35-years-old, a lawyer, and absolutely gorgeous. After some ice breakers, she informed me her husband of tens years left her a few months back – he had been cheating on her with numerous women, one of which was her good friend. They were even in the process of finally starting to try for kids after years of focusing on their law careers. She was completely blindsided. At the end of the conversation she was so thankful and professed, “Its so good to meet people who are normal. It helps me believe in humanity again.”

Human nature leads us focus on the negative more than the positive; but imagine the world we would live in if more people took their individual struggles and tried to find the silver lining. Even when our wounds are raw (like my new friend’s), we have the ability to follow her example by finding grace, dignity and triumph during tragedy. Easier said than done, but even a positive effort can change perspective!

Our decision to have children became easy – but being a parent is tough and the most difficult, rewarding thing a woman can do.  As moms we have to guide our children with our hearts and intuition, but also teach them the world can be scary and wonderful all at the same time. I hope my children come to think of me as compassionate, understanding, loving, truthful, loyal, protective, giving, and most importantly admirable – the opposite of the few monsters in the world.  Children first see the world through the eyes of their mothers.  Stay positive but don’t ignore the world, because we can always find light in the darkness. And remember, the good really do out number the bad.

The day my husband and I became proud parents.

The day my husband and I became proud parents.

Mom-ing on a budget

What would you do if you had an endless amount of money to spend? Buy clothes? Pay off bills? Build a house? Purchase a new car? Go on a trip? Purchase everything at TJ Maxx Homegoods? 

Unfortunately even us Mogul Moms are on a strict budget.  Once you have a baby, all of a sudden, you feel like you don’t need to buy those saucy heels or the latest designer jeans.  Life changes to Mom-ing on a Budget.  BK (before kids) I would’ve bought a new dress for an event – now I frequently pull a Kate Middleton and recycle dresses from my closet (thank you Kate for making thrifty fashionable!).

Here’s a few ways I’ve managed to stay fashionable on a strict budget:

  • Consignment Stores – my first trip to the local consignment store I took 3 totes of clothes. A couple months later my husband and I were greeters for A Rosie Place’s black tie charity gala and I desperately needed a new dress (breast feeding left me with nothing!). I stopped in at the consignment store to check my account and I sold $59 worth of clothes! I looked around and WAH-LAH … found the perfect dress and it was only $33. With the balance in my account I didn’t have to spend a dime and I found a great pair of designer jeans for $20.
  • TJ Maxx – normally TJ Maxx has incredible deals! But if you go at the end of the season you will find great red tag and yellow tag clearance deals.  I found my favorite pair of Via Spiga heels for only $15 on yellow tag, end of the season clearance. Warning: You will have to dig for deals!  But trust me it is more than worth it! I usually buy stuff a year in advance then store it with my seasonal clothes (its like a present when open each tote). My favorite times to go are mid January and early September.  You can also find great deals on clothes for the kiddos especially on socks and toys.
  • Target Clearance Racks –  Ever shopped for clothes at Target? If you haven’t get over to the clearance racks! They have well made, stylish clothes for amazing prices! You can find a lot of wardrobe staples here – undershirts, tank tops, etc. Target also has a REDcard that is linked to your debit account and acts as a debit card. Each time you use your REDcard on any purchase you get 5% off and on special days 10% off! No credit check is required.
  • Kohl’s Clearance – Thank you Kohls’ for stepping up your fashion game in the past 10 years! If you dig through the clearance racks, you can usually find buried treasures.  I found adorable sun dresses for $10 and even found a gorgeous black formal dress for $8.  Sometimes when you get to the checkout line they are cheaper than the price tag says! Caution: always try on and check over each garment with an eagle eye; sometimes items are on clearance because they have a rip, stain, or the seams are crooked.
  • Forever 21 – I found my favorite black pants at Forever 21, but have had to replace the button on them 3 times.  If you are looking to find a trendy item, Forever 21 is the place to go.  You can even find amazing blazers and jackets that are perfect for work. You won’t have to spend a lot of money and their clothes are always on trend (I bought a lot of my “maternity clothes” here). They even have sale racks now!  Keep in mind that sometimes you get what you pay for and if you are looking for a long lasting durable piece, you might want to go elsewhere. Words of advice: Always try on before purchasing!
  • Macy’s Clearance – Always shop at the end of the season! You can find great deals on name brands, especially on dresses. I usually find serious staple pieces (black blazers and suits) for my wardrobe at Macy’s because the clothes I’ve purchased from here have always lasted longer. I tend to look at my pieces from Macy’s as “investments”.  To me a $25 Black INC Jacket on clearance was an investment.

Disclaimer: My husband and I do not use the store credit cards. They can be good in theory to get better deals but only use them if you can pay them off RIGHT AWAY! Set a budget for yourself before you leave the house and try your best to not go over!  The goal is to not ruin your credit or break the bank trying to be a thrifty fashionista.

“They grow up fast!”

My Grandma always says “Enjoy your babies when they’re little because they grow up so fast!”.  I’ve always understood the sentiment behind her advise – but for some reason I didn’t fully understand it until the other day. 

As moms, we are constantly on the go – making meals, grabbing snacks, thinking about what’s for dinner, doing laundry, kissing “owies”, cleaning, changing diapers, working, etc. etc. etc! Most of the time we are just trying to survive let alone sit down and stare at our kids through nostalgic eyes. 

A couple ago days I actually did sit and just watch my babies – now 1-year-old and 2-years-old.  I watched my 1-year-old laugh, read books, and terrorize my 2-year-old, while my 2-year-old picked up small toys and put them in a container to carry around their playroom. They both brought me toys asking “Dis?” and “What’s this?” and gave me repeated “squeezy” hugs. We read books all the time, but on this day, we read even more.  We smiled and laughed even more. 

My kids absolutely amazed me. 

Their steps amazed me; their laughs amazed me; their words amazed me; their sharing amazed me; their eyes amazed me; their personalities amazed me – I was flat out amazed.  For the first time, I actually understood what my Grandma means.

Just yesterday my toddlers were babies and somehow, overnight they started walking and talking. The epiphany hit so hard it brought me to tears – Life has flown by these past three years and will only start going faster.  In a few months even, my once babies will be progressing to other milestones and they are constantly growing.  Even sappier – before I know it they will be off to college and living lives of their own.  

As a self proclaimed perfectionist with a driver personality (go-go-go and get stuff done!), I have recently made my main goal in life to enjoy my kids and to “smell the roses” on a daily basis.  Don’t get me wrong, I still attempt to get stuff done. But in life, stuff will always need done.  And just a hint, you will never be caught up on laundry! (I frequently pull late night laundry parties and I still never get it all done!) – that’s life.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in cleaning, laundry, phones, and work, but the bottom line is simple – our kids are our reason for living and their very existence should stop us in awe. Yes, we all have moments where we literally want to pull our hair out or pop in some ear plugs, but instead of focusing on the bad moments, let’s change our attitudes and focus on the gem moments.   

While living in this hustle and bustle world that never sleeps, I challenge all parents to slow down a bit; hold your baby a little longer; read the dreaded long bedtime story (or two); watch your child learn instead of rushing them to the next task. I haven’t and don’t always follow the slow down.  But I have found when I do, I am a better mom, my kids are happier, and I enjoy my babies to the fullest because like Grandma says … “They grow up fast!”