Homebody at Heart

“Ain’t nobody like a homebody.”

Is a sign you will see perched in a few different corners of Magnolia Market by Joanna and Chip Gaines. For those of you who are a homebody at heart, this quote most likely gives you a little chuckle that someone else is indeed feeling the same way.

“I’m in the area, can I swing by?” Is a text you’ll probably never get from me. However, you’re much more likely to get this text: “I’m home, wanna come over and hang out?”

My mom and dad talk a lot about the fact that they love how, even now, as a married adult with a child of my own, I walk up the walkway to their house singing and it reminds me of what I did growing up. They always knew when I got home from hanging out with friends in high school because I’d come up the walkway, past their bedroom window, singing. I loved being home. I was comfortable. It felt like my place.

And even now, 13 moves later (and 4 cities), I am a homebody. That means 2 things, to me.

Every time I go home — to the home I grew up in — it still feels welcoming. No matter what kind of emotions are surrounding the trip (and there have been a variety, between weddings, funerals, graduations, and vacations), walking up the walkway to the front door always feels safe, warm, right.

And being in my OWN home (even if we’re on number 7 in 6 years), where I’m able to relax, be completely myself, free from worry about the judgment of others, is the place I prefer to nearly any other.

You could offer me a week vacation in Cancun. Would I take it? Oh, sure. I love the beach! But — I will be 100% ready to return to my home at the end of that week.

And just ask my husband, he has to give me a pep talk every time we go to a church gathering, Christmas party, or dinner with coworkers. I’d rather be home — even if that means inviting others into our home — than the nicest restaurant in town.

Call me an introvert. Call me lazy, maybe, because sometimes it does have to do with the physical act of getting ready and getting out of my house. Call me anxious. Oh, yes, that has something to do with it, too; I definitely struggle with social anxiety and a sometimes crippling fear I’ll do or say the wrong thing. My mind is great at bringing back all the memories of times I’ve done ridiculous things or said something cringe-worthy.

But you can also just call me a homebody.

I just love being in the comfort of these walls I’ve been blessed to reside within, surrounded by the smell of whatever baked good I’ve got in the oven, the warmth of a blanket while I’m reading a good book, and the sound of my husband opening the door on his way in from work. Surrounded, sometimes, by the mess of toys and mix of dirty and clean laundry, and the sound of my 1 year old laughing while we play hide and seek between the kitchen and the hallway. Always surrounded by the love of the people who reside here.

I’m a homebody at heart because my heart is at home. With my family.

 

Photography: Jessica Rockowitz Photography + Film

How To Conquer Winter Blues in Austin

It’s winter in Austin.  Cold. Grey. Wet. Albeit short lived – that’s why we live in Texas after all, the blessedly mild and brief winters! 

Still, the crummy weather can get old and leave us feeling gloomy and unmotivated. Here are some tips to help overcome those winter blues in Austin:

Book a 15 to 20 minute sauna.

Shake the cold and warm up from the inside out with a relaxing sauna at your local sauna studio, day spa, or gym.  Relax, drink lots of water, and enjoy the warm buzz of increased circulation for hours to come. If you live in west Austin, I recommend the clean, new saunas at Alive and Well.

Treat yourself to a spa day with a massage, a soak in the hot tub or a mani pedi. 

Lake Austin Spa has the most serene environment that will leave you refreshed…even if you just have a few hours between kid drop off and pick up.

Treat yourself to new make up.

I don’t wear much make-up in the summer, but when the boat is winterized and the pools are closed I take inventory and then freshen my collection.  Stop by a make-up counter at a department store and ask to try on a few new shades to revamp your look. Nordstrom Domain Northside has expert beauty stylists and fabulous brands.

Revamp your closet. 

I like to make room for spring shopping by going through drawers and closets playing “keep or toss?”  Purging unworn items and organizing the keepers can be just as rewarding as actual shopping. Of course, once you have extra space in your drawers, reward yourself with some retail therapy!  Anthropologie at 6th and Lamar never disappoints.

Hit the gym. 

There’s no doubt about it that exercise helps beat winter blues.  Most of the local gyms and yoga studios have member specials in January so it may just be the perfect time to start a fitness routine!

Hot yoga is especially rewarding when it’s cold outside because the promise of a warm studio, like one of our favorites, Wild Heart Yoga, will motivate you to get out of the house.

Plan your Presidents’ Day Weekend or spring break vacation to a warm and sunny location! 

In Texas you don’t have to travel too far to get to a sunny beach. A three day cruise to Cozumel or trip to Cancun might be just the trick.  Our favorite all-inclusive adults only getaway is the Le Blanc Spa Resort…direct flights and butlers at your service. 

Winter is the perfect time to up your skincare game.

With extra time indoors we have more downtime for treatments such as lasers for pigmentation or hair removal or skin peels.  If treatments aren’t for you, maybe it’s time to try a new product or regimens. If your just looking for a quick and easy extra glow apply sunless tanner. I’m a big fan of the Rodan+Fields Reverse Regimen for brighter skin. 

If you’re truly feeling low energy, gaining weight, or sleeping too much, ask your gynecologist or doctor to check your hormone levels to rule out any thyroid issues. 

There are several spots in Austin that administer testosterone pellets for women that give us a boost of energy and last at least 4 months. B-12 shots or a vitamin D supplement could help too.  Natural Bio Health – Austin is my preferred hormone therapy clinic.

This might sound basic, but turn on all the lights in your house and blast some happy tunes! 

If all else fails, you can always wallow in it – light a fire, put on cozy slippers, make a cup of tea and snuggle up with a good book. 

Choose to embrace our brief winter and remember it will be 102 degrees outside before you know it! 

Photography : Laura Morsman Photography

How To Raise Kids In The Age Of The Internet

I’m showing my age here, but I didn’t have internet access until college. I got my first cell phone towards the end of my senior year, and I had the ability to slowly learn to use technology as the world began incorporating the internet into daily working and home life.

Contrast that with many of our children who never lived in a world without Facebook, cell phones, home computers, or even classroom computers, for that matter.

A trip to the grocery store is a quick way to see just how much a part of daily life screen time and the internet have become – even for little ones. I always see at least several shopping carts that contain a pint-sized person watching their favorite show or playing their favorite app.

I’ve long been a black and white thinker, and I had to train myself to see the gray. While my thinking often jumps to all or nothing, that is rarely the healthiest solution – for anything. I’ve come to accept that the internet, and all things screen, follow the same pattern.

While my Mama Bear-self wants to load my kids up into an RV and raise them in the woods somewhere – where they’ll never accidentally come across porn, be contacted by a groomer or be exposed to social media bullying – at some point my kids would grow up, leave the woods and quite possibly try to ingest all that I had kept them from in one long bender.

(Not to mention, I seriously like my friends, I can’t seem to break up with Target and I wouldn’t do well with shooing bugs out of my bed before going to sleep.)

If “nothing” isn’t the answer, then “all” isn’t either. There are incredible things that kids can do with access to the internet.

At my children’s school they make powerful presentations, with pictures that they source themselves online. They use Google Earth to look at the topography in different countries and they visit museums without ever leaving the classroom. That is the internet at its best – a tool to enrich our children’s knowledge and to boost the level and impact of well-planned lessons.

But the internet is not without its downsides. And the downsides can be extremely steep.

I have been a very close witness to a child entering into a “friendship” with a 14-year-old boy, who turned out to be an adult male.

I know of a 6-year-old who accidentally connected to porn through Siri.

And now goes to regular counseling because he just couldn’t stop himself from visiting sites once he was first exposed – and it took his parents a long time to realize what was going on. We can probably all think of a magazine we saw when we were young, a picture maybe we weren’t supposed to look at – but the difference is that those pictures didn’t move. They were static. They didn’t expose us to so much more than we were developmentally able to handle.

So, without panicking and moving back into “nothing” mode, how does a parent responsibly raise a child in the age of the internet? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a very good starting point:

  1. When kids are young, use screens as tools, not toys. If they don’t build their imagination muscles, they’ll be the kids with their faces buried in their screens from the bus stop to the bed. You want them to be able to step away sometimes for their own mental health.
  2. Research and incorporate filtering software into both your child’s devices and your home network. Ask your child’s school administrator or technology staff member how the school is keeping children safe online.
  3. Create a technology contract. Talk as a family to decide together what good rules look like. If your child has a hand in setting the rules, he is more likely to adhere to them.
  4. Use an app on your device that lets you see what your child is viewing on her device, including the texts that she is sending. An issue of safety trumps privacy.
  5. Be honest with your child. Explain to him why you are handling things the way you are and walk him through the consequences of bullying online, sending pictures, viewing too much social media, sharing personal information with strangers and more.
  6. Keep screens out of the bedroom. All screens. This means teenager’s phones at nighttime, too. Have a dedicated study space in the living room or other visible area if the internet is to be used.
  7. Set limits. You get to decide what’s best for your child, not your child. Does that mean screen time only on the weekends? Does that mean every day, but only for a set amount of time? Does that mean only until 8 p.m.? Confidently set your limits and follow through on them.
  8. Take an interest in what your child enjoys, so that it doesn’t seem like it is you against all technology.
  9. Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t get angry if your child messes up online. Express your disappointment, but talk through how to handle things together. If you want them to come to you should they ever mess up big-time online, show them that you can be trusted to guide and teach, not only punish.

It’s up to us to teach our children to be safe and responsible online.

It’s a daunting task when they are so much innately better at technology than we are, and when they can crowd-source work arounds in the time it takes us to blink, but it’s an important task to keep tackling.

At the end of the day, the best thing we can do is keep talking to them about our thoughts and hopes for them around the internet and technology.

If we can keep the lines of communication open, we’ve won half of the battle.

Best Ways to Enjoy Winter in Austin

When I first chose to write this post, I chuckled a little because unlike some other cities, it’s not hard to enjoy winter in Austin thanks to our mild weather. We’re lucky that we can do a lot of our favorite things all year round. But there are some activities that feel especially appropriate when a wintery spell comes, bringing us some chilly, gray days.

So if you want to cozy up and embrace the winter season in Austin, here are the best ways to do it.

Play a Game

Winter is a great time to hole up inside with your favorite board game (and maybe a cocktail). These bars have everything from the classic to the obscure, as well as arcade games.

Vigilante Gaming Bar 
7010 Easy Wind Dr #150 (Crestview)

More than 150 board games you can play, plus a full bar and gastropub menu.

Punch Bowl Social
11310 Domain Dr. (Domain)
522 Congress Ave. (Downtown)

Restaurant with arcade, bowling, karaoke, mini-golf, life-size Scrabble, all under one roof.

Kung Fu Saloon
716 W 6th St. (Downtown)

Vintage arcade games plus shuffleboard, foosball, ping pong, skee ball, and board games. Full bar (including their infamous pickle shots) and pub style menu.

The Highball
1120 S Lamar Blvd. (South Central)

The cocktail bar inside the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar hosts a weekly game night with interactive games you can play with your phone (and maybe win some Alamo prizes). They also have traditional board games and Cards Against Humanity decks.

Parlor & Yard
601 W 6th St. (Downtown)

This chill sports bar has a games room inside with arcade games, shuffleboard, and foosball. The astroturf lawn outside has ping pong table and yard games, with heaters when it’s cold.

Get Physical

Break a sweat indoors, try a new sport, and have fun with friends at these cool spots.

SPIN
213 W 5th St. (Downtown)

Ping pong bar with 14 tables, energetic atmosphere, fun music, and great food. On Friday nights you can try to beat the pros.

Bouldin Acres
2027 S Lamar Blvd. (South Central)

This new casual restaurant, opening soon, has two pickleball courts and other lawn games. (Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong.)

Crux Climbing Center
121 Pickle Rd #100 (South Central)

Indoor rock climbing and bouldering for novices to advanced climbers. There’s also a great kids climbing area for kids as young as 2.

Austin Bouldering Project
979 Springdale Rd #150 (East)

Bouldering fun and classes for youth and adults, plus yoga and fitness classes.

Chaparral Ice
2525 W Anderson Ln. (Crestview)

A true winter activity! Austin’s premier ice rink has public skating times daily.

Playland Skate Center
8822 McCann Dr. (North)

Go old-school and lace up your roller skates at Playland. Adult night is on Tuesdays.

Visit a Brewery (with a Firepit)

Austin is full of awesome breweries you can visit in any season (see our comprehensive guide here), but here are a few favorite spots that all have fire pits to warm you up on cold nights.

Jester King
13187 Fitzhugh Rd. (near Cedar Valley)

Unique beers (they specialize in sour beers), great pizza, and a sandpit with toys near the firepit.

Texas Keeper
12521 Twin Creeks Rd. (Manchaca)

Hand-crafted ciders, food menu with kid-friendly options, cornhole and toys for kids. Beautiful outdoor area and indoor taproom.

South Austin Beer Garden
10700 Manchaca Rd. (South)

Food trucks, lawn games (including two huge seesaws and tetherball), and draft beers.

Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden
121 Pickle Rd. (South Central)

Food trucks; beer, cocktails, and coffee; fish pond and chicken coop and plenty of room for kids to run around.

Infamous Brewing Company
4602 Weletka Dr. (Lake Travis)

Low-key, kid- and dog-friendly spot with a nice outdoor area that has picnic tables, a seasonal firepit, and live music.

Cozy Up with a Cocktail

When it gets dark so early in the winter, it can be nice to embrace it and head to a dark, cozy—and even secret—cocktail bar.

The Driskill Bar
604 Brazos St. (Downtown)

Classy, iconic Austin bar with plush leather couches and a cozy fireplace.

The Roosevelt Room
307 W 5th St. (Downtown)

Swanky, 20’s-inspired cocktail bar with table service, featuring original craft cocktails along with classic ones.

Midnight Cowboy
313 E 6th St. (Downtown)

Speakeasy hidden on Sixth Street serving premium, inventive cocktails and classics you’ve probably never heard of. Reservations required.

Firehouse Lounge
605 Brazos St. (Downtown)

Another cozy speakeasy that has the added charm of a hidden entrance in a bookshelf. Leather seats, live music, and high-quality cocktails will transport you back to the Prohibition era.

Floppy Disk Repair Co.
119 E 5th St. (Downtown)

You’ll need to do a little research to figure out how to get the access code for the intimate bar hiding behind this storefront. It’s worth it, though, to experience the quirky/creepy vibe (there are swings as bar seats!) with even quirkier cocktails (one is served with Trix cereal).

Garage Cocktail Bar
503 Colorado St. (Downtown)

Secluded spot tucked away in a parking garage with a hip vibe and skilled bartenders serving up delicious craft cocktails.

Living Room Lounge at the W Hotel
200 Lavaca St. (Downtown)

Cozy sitting area with comfy couches and a fireplace perfect for winter nights spent sipping on cocktails and munching on bar snacks.

Have a Spot of Tea

Once it starts to heat up, hot tea becomes less appealing, but winter is the perfect time to indulge in high tea.

Goodall’s at Hotel Ella
1900 Rio Grande St. (Central near UT)

The restaurant at Hotel Ella, a boutique hotel with lots of historic charm, has a weekend tea service featuring Austin-based Zhi teas and traditional tea sandwiches, pastries, and sweets.

Full English
2000 Southern Oaks Dr. (South)

High tea (including a children’s tea) served daily; advance reservations required. Includes sandwiches, sweets, scones, and a pot of tea.

Fluff Meringues
4800 Burnet Rd. #450 (Rosedale)

Cute and classy cafe offering “Light” and “Full” afternoon tea services with scones, pastries, cheese, and charcuterie options. Choose from 14 teas or opt for a glass of bubbly! Reservations highly recommended.

The Steeping Room
4400 N Lamar Blvd. (Rosedale)

Offers several different tea services, including a Children’s Tea, Zen Tea Service, Kasbah Express Tea Service, and the more traditional Century Oaks Tea Service with sandwiches, scones, and sweets.

The Driskill
604 Brazos St. (Downtown)

Afternoon tea is a tradition at The Driskill and a fun way to feel fancy for an afternoon. Their signature tea service (children welcome) and a premium champagne service are offered on weekends and feature three courses of sandwiches, pastries, and tea/wine. Reservations required.

Brentwood Social House
1601 W Koenig Ln. (Brentwood)

Casual neighborhood spot serves a traditional English High Tea in a quaint and cozy environment. Thursday-Sunday by reservation only.

Get Crafty

Spend a few hours inside on a winter day unleashing your creativity and making some cool projects.

Austin Craft Lounge
12919 Nutty Brown Rd. (Southwest)

Peaceful setting on a large property with a great creative space offering a variety of projects and step-by-step guidance. You can bring your own snacks and drinks.

Upstairs Circus
234 W 2nd St. (Downtown)

Cool downtown spot with a yummy cocktails and an extensive craft menu, from jewelry to art to home decor projects.

Board and Brush
Multiple locations (North, South, Cedar Park, Round Rock, Dripping Springs)

Create an adorable rustic wood sign for your home while sipping wine with friends.

CRAFT
4620 East Cesar Chavez St. (East)

Walk-in craft studio stocked with extensive supplies for you to make any craft your heart desires. Or attend a workshop on topics like ceramics, sewing, watercolors, soapmaking, and more.

Crafternoon
Multiple locations

Hosted at various library branches, the whole family can do paper crafts, easy sewing projects, and more. All supplies provided.

Breathe Some Fresh Air

Take advantage of our mild winter days (the ones that make the hot summer worth suffering through) by getting outside in nature.

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 La Crosse Ave. (Southwest)

There’s so much to see at do at the Wildflower Center. The Family Garden is great for kids, and the Fortlandia exhibit runs through Jan. 26.

Hike and Bike Trails

Check out our guide to family-friendly hike and bike trails.

Zilker Botanical Garden
2220 Barton Springs Rd. (Zilker Park)

Spend a morning visiting the koi fish, walking through the various themed gardens, and enjoying the waterfall in the Prehistoric Garden. In February, they are hosting Winter Faerie Tea Parties for kids; you must buy tickets online in advance. There’s also a cute exhibit on “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” that runs through March 22.

Free Forest School
Multiple locations

Give your kids an opportunity for unstructured nature play at Free Forest School, which hosts meetups all over Austin.

Eat S’mores

Enjoy this classic treat on a brisk winter night and pretend you’re sitting around a real campfire.

Tillie’s
3509 Creek Rd. (Dripping Springs)

This restaurant’s grand dining room was once a town hall in Vietnam that was shipped back to Texas. The upscale and unique menu matches the grandeur of the decor and is well worth the scenic drive out to the property. For the perfect end to your meal, you can roast a marshmallow in the firepit outside and make a s’more or two.

House Wine
408 Josephine St. (South Central)

Cuddle up on one of the couches at this homey bar, order a glass from their long wine menu, and roast s’mores right at your table.

Halcyon
218 West 4th St. (Downtown)
1905 Aldrich Street, #110 (Mueller)

This relaxed coffee bar is known for their make-your-own-s’mores dessert, along with great coffee, cocktails, sandwiches, and salads.

When The 504 Meeting Doesn’t Go As Planned…

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As a special needs parent, I was not prepared for a LOT of things.  So many doctor appointments, battles with health insurance, the struggles of daily life both big and small, relatives who judged instead of learned…but I was prepared for dealing with my kids’ journeys in their school systems.  

Children with disabilities are granted legal rights from the 504 plan (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) or with the IEP (Individualized Education Plan, mandated under the IDEA- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).  S

chools can implement these plans to support and accommodate students in a school setting. The journey from diagnosis (or even suspected diagnosis) to actual support in place can be rocky, and you may need some help and support yourself as a parent along the way.

I was prepared because I had friends who’d gone this road before me, and heard their successes and their horror stories.  I read and researched, exhausting online resources and printing out SO. MUCH. STUFF.

I entered my first 504 meeting prepared for battle, and was instead met with patience, open mindedness, cooperation- I nearly cried at the meeting’s conclusion, and thanked everyone present for how helpful they’d been.  Every meeting I’ve had since at this school for four years has been the same.

Then I went to my next 504 meeting, at a different kid’s different school, still prepared but feeling calmer- and met with resistance, excuses, defensiveness…I was amazed! Same school district, different people behind the table.  And that makes all the difference, I’ve learned.

 Yes, your child’s rights are the same at any school, because those are federal rights granted to students by IDEA and Section 504. 

However, some schools have people on staff that are less than supportive and will try to downplay some factors to try to limit services.  I have seen this personally, and because I was educated and prepared, I stood up for my kid and his needs were met. Many parents have no idea what to expect, and trust that the people on the other side of the table also have their kids’ best interests at heart.  Many, many times, that is the case.

When it’s not, you need to remember these key points: 

  • Good grades don’t necessarily mean your child does not need services.  
  • Under Section 504, the school district must evaluate a student, at no cost to you, if the district believes a student has a disability and needs special education and/or related services because of that disability. 
  • You can also request that the school district evaluate a student. For example, you might request an evaluation if you suspect a student has a disability or they have already received a diagnosis outside of school
  • Your school district must determine if an evaluation is necessary even if a student exhibits behavioral (and not academic) challenges. 
  • If the school district suspects a student has a disability, the district cannot deny or delay this disability evaluation in order to first provide the student with intervention strategies. 
  • Not every student with a disability needs the same set of services, or any services at all. School districts cannot simply provide the same aids and services to all students with certain disabilities.  Each student’s needs may be different, and Section 504 requires school districts to provide for those individual educational needs. 
  • The school district cannot limit aids or services that are free or low-cost, and cannot exclude needed aids and services just because of their expense.

  • The school district must allow you to appeal district actions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of a student with a disability. This obligation is more commonly known as “due process.”
  • The school district must tell you about this due process system, notify you of any evaluation or placement actions, allow you to examine the student’s records, provide you an impartial hearing, allow you to have a lawyer at that hearing, and provide you a review procedure.

My bottom line when talking to any parents who have a 504 or IEP meeting looming, or who have had a bad experience just requesting one, is to be prepared.  Know your child’s federally granted educational rights, and your own as a parent.  Bring someone with you who has “been there done that”, or a friend or relative who can remain calm and objective while you may be emotional.

Your school district likely has online resources and contact information for staff and representatives- use these! Reach out, find out what you can, talk to other parents.  You’d be surprised what you can learn just from chatting with other weary parents who have already trudged through these meetings- successful ones, and nightmare ones.

They won’t all be nightmare meetings, I promise you.  Don’t get disheartened, or start out angry.  But be prepared, and remember that your child needs you to advocate for them- in big ways and small. Your opinion, your influence, your showing up- that can make a huge difference in your child’s educational experience.

The Way I Love My Husband Matters For My Kids

I am sure we have all noticed the differences in our societal expectations when it comes to parenting.

The never-ending list of expectations that women have to be a “good mom,” and how it seems like men are just supposed to work, show up, and love to be a “great dad.”

We could write a book about the ridiculousness that still exists today and things that make it better or worse.

But have you also noticed how dads specifically in entertainment are often either portrayed as dumb, completely incapable, or villains?

I honestly think I have noticed this more since I became a mother of boys and it got me thinking.

There are a few quotes I have seen floating around that made think back to how dads are portrayed and what our society expects of them.

One says, “Husbands, love your wives well. Your children are noticing how you treat her. You are teaching your sons how they should treat a woman and you are teaching your daughters what they should expect from men.”

Another says the “best thing you could probably do as a father is make sure they see how you love their mother.”

I agree that loving your spouse can be a powerful teaching tool but it isn’t just a dad’s job any more than the dishes are a mom’s.

It is not just my husband’s job to teach our sons about love and expectations of a relationship, it is also mine.

We can’t post these great quotes while we are at the same time demeaning our husbands or harboring resentment and think our children will grow up to have successful relationships.

Mommy issues are just as common as daddy issues.

It is our job to show them that it is an equal partnership in different ways too.

It is my job to show how a partner should be respected, loved, and cherished, as much as it is my husband’s job to make sure they know men do housework and change diapers too.

I have witnessed just as many women who treat their spouses like children, vilify them, or cheat on them as I have men.

Our actions impact our children too.

Relationships are work and it is okay for kids to see those sides and see you apologize if necessary and still love each other.

Relationships also sometimes don’t work out.

Ultimately, if we find ourselves in an unhealthy marriage it is also our job to show how two people who once loved each other and may have hurt each other in the worst ways are brave enough to part ways but respect each other in order to put their children first.

As women, I see many of us with boys talking about how we won’t raise heartbreakers or mean boys or chauvinists.

For me it is important that I raise kind men, who respect others and know that relationships take work, who might break a heart and have their own heart broken, but who are resilient and know their worth.

Marriages work two ways and too many times the expectations from everything from housework to love get lopsided. We have to do our part too moms.

 

 

Photography: Jessica Rockowitz Photography + Film

 

 

Baby Items Worth The Splurge

Isn’t it overwhelming to search online for baby items? Reviews after reviews, gadgets for everything, and the list goes on.  Truth is, most of it you don’t need. Save the money you’d spend on those items and put it towards splurging on a few good quality things!

Below are my top picks for critical higher priced baby items which in my experience have been worth the extra dough!

Dockatot, prices vary and depend on cover styles $175 – 215

When I was pregnant with my first this wasn’t a must have item according to my gal pals so I skipped the purchase.  When I was pregnant round two, my goal was to re-purpose the gear I already had from my first babe. For us, however, this was a lifesaver. A safe sleeping solution, that provides a cozy womb-like feeling for the baby. It truly was the only way my son wanted to sleep the first few months!

Sleeping cozy in his Dockatot

Comotomo bottles, prices vary but typically around $15 per individual bottle

To help ease the transition between breastfeeding and bottle feeding this unique bottle does just that! The Comotomo Bottles feature dual air-vents to prevent colic, wide-neck design for easy cleaning (minimal parts unlike the Dr. Browns bottles), and was created out of a hygienic silicone material so there is no worry of toxic chemicals. In addition, the silicone material provides a “skin-like” feel and makes it easier for your little one to begin to hold for themselves. This product is a must have!

Learning to hold his own Comotomo bottle

Bamboo fabric pajamas

Soft, buttery, stretchy fabric is my love language. No, but seriously, bamboo fabric pajamas are the best thing ever. Spending extra money to get quality fabric for that sensitive new baby skin is a game changer. Some personal favorite brands that sell bamboo fabric pajamas are Kickee Pants, Kyte Baby and Silkberry Baby. An added bonus with the stretchy fabric, it made it so much easier dressing a fragile new baby or as he grew, a wiggly infant.

Soft and stretchy bamboo fabric pajamas make him smile!

Bedside Bassinet

This one is a bit tricky for some. While a pack and play may work just fine, it really is not convenient or easy especially for those mamas who may have had a c-section. I personally went with the Halo Bassinest Swivel Sleeper because I liked the swivel feature to avoid getting out of bed every time the baby was awake! I had multiple friends go a more splurge worthy route by purchasing the SNOO. They loved the motion feature of the smart sleeper, sleep log on the app and the built in swaddle. SNOO recently launched a rent now option! Instead of having to fork over the $1,295 to purchase, you rent the same thing for $112 a month. Such a good deal!

Photo credit: Pottery Barn Kids

Besides the obvious items like a safe car seat and an easy stroller system, what baby items were worth it for you to splurge on?

 

 

Photography: Laura Morsman Photography

Do you LOVE Costco as much as us? Well, if you don’t, here are 15 reasons why you should!

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Sponsored By :: Costco
I mean…. who doesn’t LOVE Costco? We certainly do! In case you are living under a Costco rock {I’m sure they sell those too}, Costco is a wholesale, bulk-buying store; however, even families of 3 or 4 will benefit from shopping at a store where you can purchase hundreds of rolls of toilet paper and thousands of diapers.

Here are 15 Reasons Why You SHOULD Love Costco {if you don’t already} and Why You Should Consider a Membership!! 

P.S. New Costco members will receive a $30 Costco Shop Card with a purchase of a new membership when you sign up with this online-only promotion for auto renewal!

P.P.S. Current Costco members who sign up for auto renewal will get the tumbler! Anyone can sign up for auto-renewal!!

Staple Items

My weekly shopping trips always begin at Costco. No matter what is on my schedule for weekly meals, I can find almost every item I need at Costco. Every week I buy the following items: organic milk, cage free eggs, GMO free sliced ham, romaine lettuce, spinach, berries, apples, and wine! And then every few trips I buy: toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, wipes, chicken and beaf Better Than Bouillon, sugar, flour (white, wheat, and almond), quinoa, batteries, etc.  These are my staple items.

New Favorites

No matter how many trips I’ve made to Costco, I always find a new favorite item. It’s like a scavenger hunt. On my last trip I found this delicious stir fry with broccoli, carrots, kale, snap peas, and a sweet ginger sauce. We ate the entire bag in two meals. It was soooo good!

Samples

Let’s be honest, shopping with kids is never easy. But when there is a fun treat every other aisle, shopping becomes much more exciting. My kids love the samples, almost as much as I do. And it’s often the samples that help me find new favorites!

Lunch

After all the fun samples, we stop for a great lunch before we head home. Sometimes we get the hot dog and soda combo that is only $1.50! Other times we share a slice of pizza, a BBQ sandwich, or a turkey melt. We also love the churros and frozen yogurt.

Returns

Because a Costco Membership is a members only warehouse, every purchase you make is tracked by your membership. Over the years I have returned so many items without any questions asked. No one can beat that return policy!

Pharmacy

I have used the Costco Pharmacy for years. They also have some medications for animals. I find it convenient and I really enjoy getting all of my errands done in one place.

Flowers

Don’t you just love a fresh bouquet of flowers? What about when some of the bouquets are only $8.99! It’s always nice to splurge for some flowers that will make me so happy and truly brighten our house.

Baby Items

We have found maternity clothes, diapers, wipes, toys, pajamas, snacks, medication, and bathroom supplies. Costco sells snack items in pouches including GoGo Squeeze apple sauce, Yo Kids yogurt, and Annie’s snack bags.

Appliances

With excellent pricing and a wonderful return/exchange policy, we default to getting our household items at Costco. Our vacuum, TV, printer, and mini fridge are all from Costco.

Kirkland Brand

Kirkland is a suburb of Seattle, the location of Costco’s original headquarters. The Kirkland Signature brand is Costco’s brand. These items are usually cheaper than name brands and often just as good. I find the Kirkland Signature brand diapers to be just as soft and absorbable as leading brands. When given the choice I always try the Kirkland Signature brand. You can learn more about Costco “pricing” here.

Organic & Gluten Free Items

I am the first to admit that I have a lot to learn about shopping organic. I know not to buy an item just because it has a gluten free label. But I have done some research on specific items at Costco and I am very happy with The Great Harvest Bread Company wheat bread that only has six ingredients, Timpone’s Mom’s spaghetti sauce that only has seven ingredients, Better Than Bouillon, Earthly Choice quinoa, Kerrygold Imported Irish butter, and Kirkland Signature pesto.

Food Shows

I have always liked a good demonstration. I love that Costco almost always has a live display. I especially enjoy the VitaMix demo and wine tasting.

Meat & Eggs

We like to eat a lot of meat and we really love eggs. At Costco I get four dozen organic and locally sourced eggs each week. I buy organic chicken breasts which come in packs of two and are convenient for freezing. There is also organic ground beef which is also conveniently packaged to use some and freeze some.

Pictures & Ink

I have the Costco app on my phone. Sometimes I order pictures straight from my phone minutes before arriving at Costco. I have ordered prints, Christmas cards, books, and enlargements from my phone. And the price is unbeatable! I also take my empty ink cartridges to get filled for around $7!

Special Savings

Costco has the Costco Savings Book usually three weeks out of the month. As a member you can get the savings mailed to your house, on your phone through the app, or at the warehouse. You don’t need to clip coupons because they are automatically applied at the register!

Inside Secrets

    • There are a few options in membership. Consider sharing a membership with a roommate, or getting the Executive Membership for the annual 2% Reward.
    • Most online orders come with free shipping!
    • When you are checking out, you can add your lunch items to your shopping cart and just have one bill.  When you go to the deli counter for your lunch you just have to show your receipt.
    • You can order pizza by the slice or whole.  It’s delicious and cheap!
    • The rotisserie chicken is amazing!
    • The prepared dinners are also amazing!  Meatloaf, calzones, chicken alfredo, and burritos are all good choices.

For my family, it’s definitely worth the membership fee for the money savings we have received from Costco. And get this, the store will give you a full refund on your membership at any time, no questions asked.

Have any other Costco shopping tips? Share with us!

Why I Stopped Drinking Diet Soda

Many moons ago, my drink of choice was Coke Zero.

When I became pregnant back in 2011, however, I remember reading that I should avoid drinking diet soda. Not only does diet soda oftentimes contain higher amounts of caffeine compared to regular soda, but there were also a few observational studies that had linked the artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas to cancer in lab rats.

That was enough for me to throw out the diet soda and make a switch. I began drinking more water and only regular soda in moderation.

Years later, the research on artificial sweeteners causing cancer has been found to be inconclusive according to the American Cancer Society. The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) believes aspartame to be safe, and the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has found no increased risk of various types of cancers associated with artificial sweeteners like aspartame.

Although I can accept that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda probably won’t cause me to get cancer, there are still a few reasons why I continue to avoid diet soda today.

Caffeine

If too much caffeine is not good for pregnant women, it’s probably not very good for anyone, right? At least that’s my personal take on the subject. The March of Dimes recommends pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg or less per day. This is equal to about one 12-ounce cup of coffee. Check out our post about risks with caffeine.

Unfortunately, diet sodas often contain more caffeine than their counterparts. For example, the caffeine content in a 12 fl oz can of Coke is 34 mg whereas the caffeine content in a 12 fl oz can of Diet Coke is 46 mg. That’s a difference of 12 mg per serving. Although this might not seem excessive, combined with a morning cup (or two) of coffee, an iced tea at lunch, or a piece of chocolate after dinner, it’s well over what most experts would consider a moderate amount of caffeine.

And it’s easy to understand why caffeine should be consumed in moderation. It’s a beast, we wrote a whole post about it. 

It can cause a plethora of unhealthy and downright dangerous side effects, including insomnia, nervousness and anxiety, fatigue, stomach irritation, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure, which could lead to a stroke, heart attack, and heart disease in the long term.

Sugar vs Artificial Sweeteners

Although there is no conclusive evidence linking artificial sweeteners to cancer in humans, there are several other studies which have found that artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, can increase the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Artificial sweeteners are 200 times sweeter than sugar.

Because artificial sweeteners are so much sweeter than sugar, they stimulate taste buds in a way that sugar does not. Over time, these artificial sweeteners can change the way people taste food. One of the ways it does this is by raising a person’s tolerance for sweet foods. This means that, in order to satisfy a sweet tooth, one would have to consume more and more sugar. Additionally, healthy foods with less sugar and/or more natural sugars can become unpalatable, making it more difficult to choose healthy food and drink options.

Artificial sweeteners affect also hormones and can slow down one’s metabolism. Artificial sweeteners, like the ones in diet sodas, stimulate hunger hormones, making a person hungrier and more likely to consume additional calories throughout the day. Seriously, I definitely don’t need any more whacked out hormones telling me to eat more food or slowing down my metabolism any more than it already is. Getting older is already doing that for me in spades.

It’s just plain gross

Now, this one is just my personal opinion, but I much prefer an ice cold Coke or Dr. Pepper to its diet counterpart. I truly believe that, for me, diet soda was an acquired taste. Somewhere along the way, I adopted Coke Zero as my go-to drink because it allowed 20-something me the illusion of a healthy lifestyle. After all this time without it, though, when I do drink a diet soda, I can really taste that sweet, chemical flavor. Yuck.

These days, I’m more likely to drink plain old ice water or sparkling water; however, when I do choose to drink soda, it’s usually a single serving of Coke or Dr. Pepper.

I Want Less Out Of 2020

We spend our whole lives seemingly wanting more.

More money. More travel. More space. More stuff. More friends. More activities. More EVERYTHING.

Well, I’m just about burnt out on MORE.

For 2020, I want LESS.

I want less stuff. Less commitments. Less clothes. Less cleaning. Less to-do’s. Less projects. Less stress. Less ALL OF IT.

It was January 2017 in particular that launched me into the desire for less. I was driving home from Dallas with my three-month-old and felt an overwhelming sense of too much (of everything). I came home and started purging my clothes. What might have been a tiny dent in my closet at the time was actually a dent into my journey for less.

It’s definitely not a quick fix, particularly when I’ve built a life of attachment to stuff and an addiction to busyness, but I’ve been slowly chipping away at the brick wall of excess, to free my heart, free my soul and free my mind.

And it. feels. good.

Spoiler alert! By having less, you end up having more.

More money that’s not being thrown toward items and activities you don’t really need or care about.

More space to house the items you actually use and covet instead of those you don’t.

More freedom not wasted on commitments that feel like a drain.

More time and energy to do things you love.

More happiness by engaging in activities that bring you joy.

In general, morefrom less.

If you’re held down by the chains of stuff and over-scheduling and whatever else, join me! I don’t care if it takes 10 days or 10 years. I’m on a mission to clear my mind and my space.

Bye clothes that make me feel blah.

Bye projects that I dread more than I enjoy.

Bye overpriced outings that could have been more fun at home.

I want to turn off the screens, cancel plans and maybe even be bored a bit more. I want to quit spending money on things that are low quality and add minimal value.

I want QUALITY over QUANTITY in just about all aspects of my life.

Less distraction. Less burden. Less stuff.

For 2020, I’m aiming for LESS!

(Need some inspo to kick start? The Minimalism documentary or the Tidying Up with Marie Kondo series are good options on Netflix. You can also snag a read from the library. Book ideas: Everything that Remains, Clutterfree with Kids, Simplicity Parenting, How Much Is Too Much?, Minimalist Parenting, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.)

 

Photography: Jessica Rockowitz Photography + Film

Model: www.thefussymama.com

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