Get the pedicure

Last weekend was nuts.

I was pumping multiple times a day, working ahead on some projects for the following week, and trying to find clothes that fit my postpartum body to pack for an out of town event.

This work event just happened to be in Destin, Florida, and I desperately needed to get a pedicure for my soon to be exposed toes.

But I had a million other things to do and the thought of leaving my kids alone with my husband for even one extra hour before heading to the beach days later seemed so unreasonable.

This is a situation I’ve found myself in many times before.

I need to do the laundry, take the kids to get a haircut, go to the grocery store, finish client projects, sweep the floors, strategize some upcoming business initiatives, and clean the toilets…

Seriously, who has time to get a pedicure?

That really got me thinking.

I need to do so many things. {At least I think I do.}

But what about what I need?

In this case, a pedicure to bring my feet out of hibernation. But sometimes it’s lunch with a friend, time to exercise or just a quiet moment alone.

Why do we, as mothers, hesitate to do things for ourselves?

Mom guilt.

Surely it would look bad if I went a did something for myself before every tiny thing at home is wrapped up, right? I mean, I’m leaving town for crying out loud.

Except here’s the thing – the long list of to-dos is never really done. And by not taking care of numero uno, we just ware ourselves down with all of the other stuff. Even the flight attendants remind us before take off that we need to put on our own oxygen mask before assisting others.

Full disclosure: I’m writing this post from a 3 bedroom penthouse suite at a resort in Destin, Florida.

And I absolutely refuse to feel guilty about it.

Why?

Because it’s great for my personal and professional development.

I have a husband whom I trust completely with our three children.

Everyone will be alive and well when I return home. After a week, they won’t even remember I left in the first place.

And I would have a lot more regrets if I’d chosen not to attend.

So while I acknowledge that mom guilt is definitely a real thing, I’m also declaring it only as powerful as we allow it to be.

So before my trip, I decided to kick mom guilt to the curb in four easy steps.

  1. It’s easier said than done, but stating that you refuse to let guilt take over is the first step. Like most things in life, it’s a choice.
  2. Address why you felt it in the first place. For me, it was the idea of asking my husband to step up one more time right before leaving town.
  3. Find a way around it and make your own reality. I could have filled my day with housework and packing, and then been upset about my ugly feet later. I could have resented my husband for “not letting me go” even though I’d never asked. Instead, I ditched the housework, waited until the older kiddos were napping {aka pretending to sleep while quietly destroying their bedrooms} and took the baby with me to the nail salon.
  4. Give yourself grace. Did I get to every single thing on my list before heading out of town? No. But it’s been a week and I still haven’t. But I did give myself a pat on the back for doing something I normally wouldn’t have done for myself and for feeling really good about it. For the record, my toes look fabulous, the baby slept the entire time we were at the salon, and my husband barely noticed I’d left the house, let alone the remaining chores.

Mom guilt, be gone!

Who’s with me?

Go out and be an awesome mother, wife, colleague and friend. Just please remember to fasten your own oxygen mask first.

12 mompreneur tips for thriving {not just surviving} during the holidays

Holidays are such a special time to spend with family and friends. I love the lights, the traditions, the food, and the extra time at home with my loved ones. Yet, just because my kids get off from school, doesn’t mean my business stops – or even slows down.

So I took to the experts…fellow business owners and mamas who juggle their careers and their kiddos….to ask what tips they suggest for not just surviving, but thriving while working from home during the holidays. Keep reading to find out what I learned!
mompreneur tips

Plan ahead & stay organized.

 

Schedule out your days! While the holidays can often throw routine into chaos, take the time NOW to actually schedule out what needs to be done and by when; don’t just make a “to do” list and expect it’ll get done. Just because there’s only a few days left in the year doesn’t mean it’s time to slack off; get ready to rock 2017!

-Amber,  Thrifty Guardian and Embracing Temerity

 

 

Plan ahead! Make a schedule of play and working blocks, and have a few activities in your back pocket to keep the kids busy while you stay on your grind. Don’t forget to give your clients the heads up, too – send out an email outlining your holiday availability, noting any alterations to your office hours and reminding them of your preferred contact method.

-Resa, Eye Heart Creative

 

I use Trello during the holidays (especially my holiday gift and card planning board which helps me to brainstorm gifts and makes sure I’m mailing presents out on time.) I also use Trello to keep track of what is happening with my business and household, including recipes and meal plans, which takes a lot of stress off of me. Trello gives me confidence and allows the holidays to be more fun this year, since I’m in it all the time for my business anyway. It’s easy and fun.

-Dana Malstaff, Boss Mom

 

Find the time{r} to work with your kids.

 

Working with kids in the home is challenging. The one tip that keeps me focused and productive – and this has worked from 3 years old to the teen years – has been a timer and working in time blocks. My young children were able to watch a timer and keep themselves busy for 20 minutes in the other room while I did a deep focus block. I worked the way up to 45 minute blocks as they got older. I have found that with 2-4 focus blocks a day, I can conquer most of the heavy lifting.

– Cecily, Cecily: Nutrition, Love and Transformation

 

I use a pomodoro timer. I set it for 20 minute increments and I can only work during that time. No checking email, no social media, no attending to house work. You would be amazed how much you get done when the time is ticking…literally!

-Kristin, Pond Photography

 

 

During school vacations, I move my work from the home office to the kitchen. This way, I am literally running a command center within reach of everyone and everything we need. If there is a stretch of time coming up when I know that I need to be engaged with work, I try to have a ‘favorite’ on hand for the girls. Homemade play-doh is a double whammy, because we make it together which takes about 10 minutes, but then they have an open ended activity that – after a good raid of the junk drawer – can literally last hours!

-Jenna, Rodan + Fields Independent Consultant

Set boundaries for yourself

The holidays are my busiest season and I have to be very intentional about setting boundaries. When it’s Family Cookie-Baking Night, I don’t worry about Christmas shopping or work. When I’m working, I’m don’t feel guilt over the millions of Pinterest holiday crafts I could be doing with my kids. Peace is attainable if we fully engage in the task at hand and look for joy in the process.

– Jillian, Jillian Jones Music

 

Without a clearly defined schedule, it’s easy to lose yourself in work and totally miss out on family time. After all, isn’t the ability to be more present with our loved ones a big reason many of us work from home? Mark your off times in a calendaring system (I use Acuity Scheduling’s free plan) for your clients, put your hours on your website and in your email signature, and send your clients a note letting them know your hours. Block off personal time and guard it with your life. I promise, this Spring you won’t look back and regret having spent a little less time on your business and a little more with your kids during the holiday season

-Becky, Becky Mollenkamp, LLC

 

Take some time out for you. It sounds like a near impossible task with everything going on during the holidays, with work, the kids, and holiday commitments. Find some time to allow yourself to check out from your business, even if for a night after the kiddos are in bed, to Netflix binge, take a relaxing bubble bath, or enjoy a glass of wine to let your mind take a holiday, too!

-Britt, Home Sweet Hyatt

 

And finally, don’t forget what the season is really about….

 

The key to thriving in the holiday season is maintaining a place of rest and refreshment in your home for you and your family. Simply put, it’s about less stuff. In our culture we live and breathe a constant flash of discounts, sales, and good deals. And because of that, our homes can easily be filled with all of those things. Keep the season focused on enjoying your loved ones and experiencing life with them, let the new year ring in with memories, not overload of things that were accumulated through the month of December.

-Amy, Simplified Home

 

I think the holiday season is all about giving grace and savoring the moments.  As working moms we need to really allow ourselves the opportunity to fully enjoy those memories we’re creating with loved ones, but it’s also a lucrative time for many of us professionally.  Doing our best with what is truly important and forgetting the rest {for me it’s Christmas cards this year} is what makes thriving this season possible.

-Gwen, The Makerista

 

The holidays are all about spending time with loved ones and making good memories. My tip for working mamas is to plan what you can & let go of the rest. Plan/schedule out your work times and your fun times – be realistic knowing that you will want to let your hair down a bit in this season. Also, know that not everything will go according to plan, and that’s okay too.

-Veronica, Radiant Life Consulting

 

 


What tips would you add to the list to up your efficiency while working from home during the holidays? Share them in the comments!

“Unless you try, you’ll never know”

tips for working moms

Q&A with Lainie Sevante Wulkan

When I had the pleasure of spending the day with Lainie Sevante Wulkan at the FemCity Day of Positivity a few weeks ago, I knew I wanted to pick her brain for tips for working moms.

Like most entrepreneurs, Lainie hardly fills her days doing just one thing. In addition to co-owning her company with her husband, she’s the President of FemCity Albuquerque, one of the largest chapters of the national female networking group boasting over 550. {If you’re not familiar with FemCity, check it out!}

Most recently she added author to her list of accomplishments with the publication of her children’s book, Finn’s Giant Leap. {I’m giving away an autographed copy on social media, so be sure to check out my Instagram and Facebook pages to enter to win. Your kiddos will thank you! Like Finn’s Giant Leap on Facebook while you’re at it!}


Self-promo time. Tell me about your business.

I’m a Media Executive and co-own a business called Cinder Cone Media Worldwide with my husband, Film Composer and Music Producer, Howard Wulkan. Cinder Cone is the umbrella for The LAB Recording Studios, Zeta Global Radio, an online conscious talk show with listenership in over 50+ countries, Cinder Cone Records, an independent music label with distribution via Universal and Cinder Cone Events, conscious global event productions that make an impact in the world.

If you weren’t doing that, what would you be?

I am SO in my passion with my business, it’s my second love next to my husband and two daughters. {Oh, and 9 pets.}

When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I grew up with a single mom who primarily was a serial entrepreneur. She had everything from a clothing store, to antique shop to doing home jewelry parties {back in the day when direct sales weren’t even a home thing yet} and eventually direct sales with every product out there. Being self-employed was pretty much all I knew. I have had a few corporate jobs in my long career, but they’ve truly felt the most foreign. Helming the ship is definitely where I am most comfortable and feel the most free to be me.

What’s the best part of running your own company?

The best party of running my own company is being able to make my own schedule. I have a lot to juggle between my children’s activities, my pets’ needs, the business, and multiple travel schedules. Having the flexibility to work out my schedule as needed and even fit some “Me Time” in there is invaluable. There are those days where it’s like, “today is the day. I am getting a massage and buying a new toothbrush.” The freedom to do the simple things is so important to me. I’m accounted for by so many people – my family, my staff, our artists, our sponsors, our clients, the press, etc. It’s about the balance and finding the time management to handle it all with grace and know that I have the ability to say NO when needed.

Tell me about a time you failed in business and how did you overcome it?

Unfortunately, failures have occurred through my career. Yet, after wounds heal and reflection has allowed its time to bring greater awareness, failure truly does teach. Some of my biggest failures have been in trusting to a fault in people that haven’t been aligned with the same integrity wheel I roll on. As a result, I’ve had ideas “conveniently borrowed” {or should I just all out say – STOLEN} and have watched some projects grow without proper credit.

I overcame it with grace. I learned that no one wants to hear a squeaky wheel, victim vent. So I’ve learned to trust a different way. I trusted in the belief that the truth always prevails and that a leopard doesn’t change its spots. If someone was dishonest to me, most likely they will be that way with others and exposure of the true path always shows. So I overcame obstacles as such through patience, trust in the universal laws of karma and also garnered new levels of discernment I would have not mastered had I not had the experiences of those failure opportunities.

What is a typical day like for you?

What I love so much is that every day is different and I never know what to expect. One day I’m interviewing leaders that are changing the world or kids doing extraordinary achievements at such a young age {like today’s show for this Saturday’s ZGR show}, to an impromptu dance party with one of our hip hop artists and their entourage. It’s never the same and I wouldn’t change it. So much creativity abounds at Cinder Cone and it’s a wonderful environment for my own children to have that exposure to the arts.  

tips-for-working-moms1How has motherhood affected your professional goals?

I strive to create a business the girls can be proud of, have fun with it, and if they want, be part of it. My own mother with her multiple businesses needed my help as a single mom. I didn’t have a choice but to be part of it. As a mother, you either learn from your parents and model that behavior to your own family or you do the exact opposite, learning how you once did things, found out what worked, what didn’t and chose a different course. I believe motherhood stared me more into a new direction I wanted as an entrepreneur. Also, having such a creative business allows me to work harder to create the flexible schedule so I can be there for the girls to go on trips when we want and have more opportunity to be at the events they need me at.

If your girls take away one thing from you running a business, what do you think that would be?

I believe my kids are learning the art of flexibility. Our business and I’m sure most self-employed businesses are not 9-5 M-F. Sometimes we work weekends, nights, long hours, holidays. While we do our best to keep to a normal business schedule, there’s nothing normal about the entertainment business. I’d want my children to know that there’s no one shoe that fits all. That everyone finds the path that works for them and they will too. There’s nothing wrong with a set work schedule and paycheck. We teach acceptance of all, everyone. We honor Oneness and Consciousness. My biggest dream is they see that the work we do at Cinder Cone is to help move the world forward in a positive way.

You’ve recently added children’s author to your resume. Tell me about it.

Ahhh. My most cherished project yet. Finn’s Giant Leap came to me in a “dream” or more like I woke up in the middle of the night and got a “message” to write this down. The story poured out of me. I never had any thought to write a children’s book. Yet, now, Finn is such a part of me and soon the world.

The messages are universal for kids and adults: believe in yourself, dream big and know all that we’ve ever needed is already inside. Finn learns patience, humility and victory. He learns the power of friendship. We ALL need friends we can trust and count on and seek being understood. We all are curious even though we are told what’s right and what’s wrong. Yet, we still need to figure it out for ourselves. So many life lessons shown through the eyes Finn the frog and his fairy friend, Syana.

It’s a magical story I can’t wait to share with all. Whether kids are 2 and 3 and just look at the beautiful pictures or they are 10-12 and get the messages, there’s something for everyone and I believe all will be touched by Finn’s Giant Leap. Then comes the sing along CD in October. Now that’s going to be AMAZING! All inspired messages from the book plus an audio narrative of the story by yours truly!

With so much on your plate, what keeps you sane?

Do you know how often I get that? Daily. The other big question is, “do you sleep?” The answer to that one is yes, I LOVE to sleep. I keep sane by living a life of excitement and joy. I get to share all my achievements on a daily basis with my husband. We’re like two little kids, especially when the work day is over and it’s just him and me playing guitar and writing/singing songs together. It’s a magical time to collaborate. I am also an avid book reader and love all things spiritual and esoteric. Meditation and journaling are also in my sanity tool box along with gourmet cooking with both my daughters.

Do you have any tips for working moms?

My best piece of advice for other working moms is to be IN JOY! Do what makes your heart sing and keeps your vibration up high. If you’re a doer, GO DO! Never second guess yourself {i.e. am I neglecting my children by working or any other should’ve, would’ve could’ve.} If you are called to self-express through an endeavor besides mommy hood, GO FOR IT! You’ll feel great about your accomplishments and that joy will reflect in your parenting. Happy Mom, Happy Child! Too many people are always concerned about what others think, say, do. I say, wait for that purpose in your life that lights you up like a Christmas tree and give it a shot. You can always back off if it’s too much. But, unless you try, you’ll never know.

I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

Excellent question and it can be answered differently each and every day in all honestly. Remember asking me what a typical day like? Ditto here. Some days I say YES, I am exactly in my lane and I love the direction I am in, our family is in, our business is in, etc. Then there the days when it feels all too much and I want to check out to the isles of Trinidad and worry mostly about if I should put on SPF 30 or 50. Chances are, I’d get bored and want to jump back into the fray again. I love the balance of my life – the excitement and the calm, the unknown and the known. I think there’s never a final moment of having it all when you are a dreamer like me. There’s always something else to bring to the world. The ideas never stop. And I wouldn’t change a thing!


Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

“I woke up one day and asked myself why I wasn’t following my passion”

follow your passion mama cover

Q&A with Amy Neil

Have you ever wondered what it what be like to ditch your 9-5 to follow your passion?

A self proclaimed “mom boss,” Amy Neil has always known that she wanted to help people. Previously a collegiate coach, she traded in people for their pooches full-time.

With the support of her husband, some amazing mentors, and dedication to becoming the best in her field, Amy has grown her side passion project into a booming business.


Self-promo time. What do you do?

I work with dogs and their humans. My mission is two fold. First, I bring support to owners whose dogs have behavioral issues ranging from general excitement to severe reactivity and aggression. Second, I use social media to help educate pet dog owners on how to create a healthy and confident relationship with their dog. The result is fewer dogs rehomed or sent to shelters because owners have the tools and support to work with their dogs.

You weren’t always canine bound. How’d you discover your passion for dogs?

I took a windy road to get to where I am. With a bachelors of science in Athletic Training, I did that for a year. I coached the throws events for Columbia University Track and Field, ran a farm, sold cars, and worked at a non profit. Dogs were an underlying theme the whole time, but I never thought of it as a feasible career. Then I had the cliche moment where I woke up one day and asked myself why I wasn’t following my passion. From there I put the blinders on and just started learning all I could about dogs.

Any tips for dog owners?

I want people to know if they are struggling with their dogs, ask for help. Asking for help is the hardest but most amazing thing that can be done for both humans and dogs. What I do is more than dog training, it’s a passion to help people feel like empowered, confident, and strong leaders. It’s an amazing process, and I am so grateful people allow me the opportunity to be a part of it.

I’ve gotta know. Do you have a favorite breed?

Haha, that’s a tough one! I have a running bucket list of breeds I’d like to own one day, boxer, basset hound, dalmatian, german shepherd, and bloodhound are all on my list. Beagle is my favorite, and not just because I own them! They make great family dogs, love a good run, clever as can be, and if you can harness their nose super eager to please, and don’t take up much space. On the flip side, they can be really big babies, too smart for their own good, and when they listen to their nose they ALWAYS wind up in biggggg trouble. I love both sides!

What is a typical day like for you?

We usually are all up around 6 and I help my husband leave for work. I get Ruby her breakfast then shoot my Morning Chit Chat video everyday. Around 10am Ruby and I head out for dog walks, we walk anywhere from 1 to 3 different dogs a day. Otherwise it’s totally dependent on how many training sessions I have, if I have a dog boarding at the house, or if there is group class that night.

follow your passion

What do you hope your daughter learns from watching you grow your business?

There are a lot of things I hope she learns, but the biggest thing would be to work hard for what you believe in and don’t worry what others think. Always bring positivity to the table. The struggle can get really REAL sometimes. It’s how you deal with the struggles that matters. I want her to understand that perseverance, determination, even a little stubbornness will take her a long way.

How has becoming a mom affected your professional goals?

It’s made me more tenacious and confident in the choices I make. In a really crazy way, becoming a mother afforded me the opportunity to grow my business. I quickly realized going to a traditional job, organizing childcare, giving my time to someone rather than myself just wasn’t working for me. I learned that working for myself was the only choice.

Finish this sentence: Before I had kids, I wish someone had told me…

About the little moments. When a diaper change becomes a tickle fest, the cuddles just after waking up, when “Daddy” gets home, sitting down for dinner. The most special moments happen at the most random times, make sure to enjoy them.

They say it takes a village. Who is your village?

It does take a village! Of course, my husband. My parents, his parents, many other family members alway willing to watch Ruby when we want to sneak away for a minute. Business wise, my coach and mentor Shane Kulman. Shane has helped me break down so many barriers that were in my way. Also, my dog training mentor, Tom Davis. It’s really nice having someone to fall back on in the field. He and I bounce a lot of things back and forth, it’s super affirming for me and helps me remember I am on the right path. By opening myself to all Shane and Tom have to offer, my business has really taken off.

What’s your best piece of advice for working moms?

Somedays you just need to slow down and be with your kids. Don’t ever feel obligated to miss the important moments with your kids because of someone else’s needs and desires. If you feel like you are missing those moments, then it’s time to slow down and re-evaluate what you are trying to accomplish.

I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

I feel like having “it all” means being able to provide support to my family on OUR terms. Not having to work 9-5, providing time for adventures, not missing important moments, not answering to anyone else. Having “it all” means creating the life that works for us, even if it means breaking all the rules.


Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

3 reasons why you should always respond

why you should always respond

I’m a firm believer that you should go after what you want, because the worst anyone can tell you is no. But what happens when that person you’re reaching out to isn’t saying no, they aren’t getting back to you at all?

It can be frustrating if you’re on the receiving end of the phone that doesn’t ring or the email that never gets answered. Maybe you’re even guilty of being the one failing to respond from time to time.

I’ve written about why I think it’s important to care about what other people think before, but I think it’s even more relevant in the workplace, especially if you own a business. By failing to respond, you may be doing some permanent damage to your reputation.

How do you resist the urge to ignore? It can be tough. For one thing, sales calls can be extremely irritating. If you’re like me, you may not pick up when an unknown number calls. For two months straight I received a call at the exact same time every day on my cell phone. I complained about it to anyone that would listen. Why wouldn’t they take a hint? When would they stop calling? The nerve!

Then one day I answered. It was a very nice salesperson. Person. There was actually someone being paid to harass me everyday at the exact same time. I kindly told him that I wasn’t interested and could he please remove my phone number from the list. I never received another call. The worst he heard was no.

We live and work in a highly distracting world full of social media networks and open office floor plans. Achieving efficiency is hard enough, and now you’re supposed to carve out a part of your day just to get back to people? Yup.

While not every group email requires a reply all, it’s important to consider whether any damage could be done {to you or the initiator} by not getting back to the people who reach out to you.

Here’s three reasons why I think you should always respond when people contact you.

Responding makes you reliable

I used to work with someone who was notorious for not responding to emails. I’m not sure if he never read them or actively chose not to reply. Either way, he quickly earned a reputation for not being a very reliable employee. People began questioning his ability to do his job and stopped soliciting his contributions to projects.

On the flip side, Facebook actually rewards businesses with a badge when they have an impressive response rate. Who wouldn’t want to work with a business that’s been endorsed for their dedication to customer service?

Responding builds relationships

We all know the saying, “treat others how you want to be treated.” I’m not sure why, but most people don’t seem to be applying the golden rule when a phone or computer come into the picture. Do you like being ignored? Me neither!

The truth is, communication builds relationships, and these days a large majority of our communicating isn’t taking place face to face. Get comfortable on the phone, learn email etiquette, and understand what is {and isn’t} appropriate to put on the internet. Then take the time to respond and engage and watch your relationships flourish.

Responding creates opportunities

There is a lot of junk mail out there, so I understand the temptation to send to spam. About a year ago I received a pretty generic sales pitch on LinkedIn about bringing a women’s organization to Kansas City. Other than my name, nothing about the message was customized. And it was sent from a complete stranger from halfway across the country. I almost deleted it. I think about my decision to respond all the time. The messages turned into phone calls which grew into an amazing community for local professional women and business owners and has contributed to my personal and professional growth one hundred times over. Imagine the opportunities missed by not getting back to someone!

I’m not saying you need to chime in at the end of an unnecessarily long email chain that lost it’s productivity nine emails ago. In fact, please don’t. But before you decide to leave someone hanging, I do encourage you to ask yourself if turning a blind eye could come back to bite you.

Do you ever think it’s appropriate not to get back to someone? Tell me in the comments.

Why I’m not buying my kids birthday presents

It’s a big week in our house. My son Henry turns two years old tomorrow and on Saturday my daughter will be four. This weekend we’re throwing a joint birthday party {something I intend to do for as long as I can get away with it}.

Daphne is incredibly excited. She keeps going over the guest list at the dinner table and has already brainstormed where she’d like to host next year’s birthday party {at home} and her 17th birthday party {at Gymboree…I’ll be sure to remind her of that when she’s seventeen…}.

birthday party

Ever since Daphne’s first birthday {an over the top ONEderland theme complete with a professional photographer and the photos to to prove it}, I’ve made a pretty big fuss over my kids’ birthdays. {Although this year I did decide to trade in the DIY house party for a venue rental. It’s a tad more expensive, but way worth the time I’m saving not cutting out Etsy bought theme designs.}

I have no doubt that this year will be something she’ll continue to talk about for a long time. Bowling, balloons and a birthday cake {that she picked out} with friends is a pretty big deal for a little kid!

As much as I love a good celebration with family and friends, I far from splurge when it comes to the presents. We already have a house full of too many toys. As a mom, I’m in the business of making memories. That doesn’t happen over a bunch of stuff, it happens when we do stuff together.

Birthdays are no exception! In fact, they are the perfect opportunity to create those Insta moments you’ll be talking about years down the road. Here are my tips for making the most of your kids’ birthday presents….or lack thereof.

10308553_10101014577720156_4626342865524545868_n
Daphne {3} and Henry {1} at their Toy Story themed bash last year.

Buy Experiences Not Things

Have you ever been home with a bored kid? It’s the worst. They become whiney and needy and you’re looking around at a mountain of toys wondering how boredom is even possible. It’s because they need something to do.

Research has been telling us for years that spending money on new experiences yields more happiness than spending it on new products. It isn’t a new concept, but for some reason I think we have a more difficult time applying it to young kids.

In lieu of gifts for Christmas and their birthdays this year, we’ve opted for a Wonderscope membership and zoo membership. Then the important part is to get out there are actually use them. I feel happier already!

Ditch the “No Gifts Please”

Have you ever gotten an invitation to a birthday party or shower that says “no gifts please” or “your presence is present enough” on it? {Guilty of sending, BTW!} While it may be incredibly well intentioned, it can be confusing or even stressful for your guests.

When it comes time for the event, you have the rule followers strolling up to the door next to the etiquette police with a perfectly wrapped package in tow and suddenly the empty handers feel badly.

The reality is, people like to bring gifts! And, truth be told, no one wants to be the only one showing up without one. I say, let them.

Teach Gratitude

Since you have all of these thoughtful friends coming with gifts, you have the perfect opportunity to teach your little birthday darling how to be appreciative. First, start with basic manners. No matter what anyone says, hand written thank you notes have not gone out of style.

Second, consider using the presents as leverage to purge some of the gently used toys collecting dust around your house. Allow your children to be a part of the process. They can help decide which items get donated and even go with you to drop them off at a local charity.

I’m looking forward to splurging on donuts for breakfast tomorrow morning with Henry before heading to the zoo for his big day. While my now two year old may not recall every detail, I still know our family’s birthday week memories will last longer than the four minutes he would have spent playing with a new toy before tossing it aside.

What do you think of the rising trend of “no gift” and charitable gift parties?

My miscarriage story: I’ll always remember you

miscarriage due date

This Thursday is the due date of my miscarried baby.

When you’re pregnant, your growing belly is an obvious indicator for the people in your life to check up on you. How are you feeling? Getting any sleep? Are you ready?

But when you lose your baby, there’s no easy way for those closest to you to remember an important day is approaching.

For nearly a month now, I’ve felt nothing short of emotionally unstable. Even the quickest thought about my baby will leave me in tears.  I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ve felt anxious and ready for the due date to come and go, hoping that with it some of my grief will also finally pass.

I remember taking the pregnancy test at my parent’s house. I was dropping off my kids so my husband and I could go on a quick weekend getaway. I was bouncing around the bathroom just feet away from my entire family trying to keep quiet while I waited.

I remember smiling after registering the pink plus sign, and then feeling so proud of myself for keeping it a secret from my family while I said my goodbyes before heading out to pick up my husband from work and hit the road.

I didn’t tell him the entire three hour drive. I thought about it a million times, but this was pretty big news and I honestly wasn’t sure how he was going to react. The last thing I wanted was for him to drive off the road. While we had been talking about baby number three for a little while, we were intending to wait until our other kids were a bit older.

I remember his reaction when I turned down a margarita {my favorite} when we went out to dinner later that evening. I told him to drink up, because he was set with a designated driver for another nine months. He laughed. He asked if I was kidding. Then he shuffled between excitement and panic throughout dinner before settling on genuine happiness. It didn’t take us long to start throwing out baby name ideas.

I remember the first time I woke up and ran to the toilet to vomit. Just like my two other pregnancies, morning sickness came early and aggressively. I quickly got back on my anti-nausea meds that I was all too used to and settled into a routine of puking and rallying to head to work or chase my kids.

I remember my neighbor coming over after work with her two kids so that our children could play together and she could supervise while I lay on the couch trying not to throw up on myself. I was so happy that I had someone I could count on when my husband wasn’t home.

I remember when I stopped being able to make food for my family because the odor was unbearable for my pregnant nose.

I remember thinking it was amazing that my husband had to take care of our kitties’ litter box. It was a small consolation prize for all of the vomiting I was doing.

I remember when I called to make my first doctor’s appointment and found out that they no longer accepted our insurance. I was incredibly frustrated. This was my third child. The last thing I wanted to do was start over with someone new. What choice did I have?

I remember the doctor’s appointment like it was yesterday. It was my first time at a new OBGYN. It was supposed to be a 12-week check up. I was feeling pukey, but fine. Within the first few minutes of meeting me, the doctor had to give me the worst news of my life. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I felt worse for her or me.

I remember thinking how crazy it was that my husband had made accommodations at work to be at that appointment with me. He went to maybe three other appointments between our daughter and son, and most likely just for the ultrasounds. But for some reason, he was with me to receive the devastating news. I remember being so thankful that I didn’t have to sit in the room by myself. Or drive home.

I remember struggling to decide if I wanted the baby to pass naturally or if I wanted to have the procedure done. How was I supposed to decide something like that? What way would you like to lose your baby? Quickly or slowly? Risky or messy? I remember thinking that it was the worst day of my life. I felt sorry for myself. I finally decided to have the procedure. I wasn’t going to begin any sort of healing process with the baby still inside of me. I couldn’t change what had happened. I wanted to move on. My husband called the doctor for me and scheduled an appointment for the following morning.

I remember my three-year-old cuddling with me in bed. She cried with me and asked if she could touch my tummy and say goodbye to the baby. She told the baby she loved him. I’ve never been so amazed by my daughter – her maturity and empathy – as I was that night.

I remember not sleeping. I was scared for the surgery. I was nervous about something going wrong and thought of my two beautiful, healthy children being without their mom.

I remember being surrounded by women. My doctor, the nurses, the anesthesiologist. All women. Several of them grabbed my hand as if it to say they’ve been there. It will be okay. It was overwhelming.

I remember giving my baby a gender and a name. I talked to my husband about it. We understood that we both needed to grieve in our own ways and that naming our baby was a connection that made the loss more difficult for him. It made it easier for me, more personal, so I keep it to myself. It’s just between me and my baby.

I remember going back to my parent’s house after the surgery so that I could rest. Like my pregnancy, my miscarriage became incredibly public. Not because of any decisions I felt liked I’d intentionally made, but when you’re as sick as I am during pregnancy it’s pretty hard to keep hidden for long. Just days before my doctor appointment, I finally put our pregnancy out there on social media, but it was hardly news to anyone at that point. I sat in the dark in the guest room of my parent’s house composing an email to my coworkers. I shared the email on my Facebook page. It wasn’t news I wanted to share for my own benefit. I was trying to prevent an awkward foot-in-mouth moment for everyone in my life.

I remember going outside to play with my kids that afternoon when I got home. Surprisingly, my nausea and exhaustion subsided immediately after the procedure. I wasn’t pregnant anymore.

In the days that followed, I received hundreds of private messages, phone calls, emails and text messages. Dozens of women reached out to offer sympathy or even share their own miscarriage stories with me. Some I knew about and others were complete surprises. It was strangely comforting to not feel so alone. As my mom said, “it’s a really big club, but one I’d hoped you would never have had to join.”

I remember secretly wishing that people would stop saying things like, “God has a plan for you” or “everything happens for a reason.” The truth is, while I’ve attempted to console friends with those same cliches, I just wanted to feel sorry for myself. I wanted to be sad. And angry. And confused. I wanted someone to say, “this totally sucks.” I didn’t want any reasoning. An explanation wasn’t going to bring back my baby.

I remember thinking that life is uncertain. All of the plans we had made for the new baby over the months we knew about him shifted out of view. This lack of control gave me an inexplicable amount of courage; I quit my job the next week. {Something I had been thinking about for months but was too afraid to do until the timing was “right.”}

I remember the first time I brought up my miscarriage casually during a conversation with friends. I could see them growing uncomfortable, shifting eye contact or body language, not sure how to respond. But I still did it. It helped me to acknowledge what had happened.

I remember the first time I felt simultaneously happy and heartbroken. With each baby announcement or gender reveal photo that pops up on social media, my body aches a little bit and I wonder what if my baby’s story had played out like that. It’s strange when someone else’s joy can bring you joy and pain, but I’m getting used to feeling it.

I remember when I got to hold my neighbor’s new baby for the first time not even a month ago. We told each other we were expecting at the same time last summer. We were supposed to go through out pregnancies together, our babies’ births together and all of the milestones to follow. Except I won’t. Her son is healthy and beautiful and I am so happy for her. But it also reminds me that I am sad for me.

Throughout the last seven months, I’ve come full circle. I had stopped crying every day and now I cry every day again. In the months in between, there were even some days with the chaos of day to day life that I didn’t think about my miscarriage at all.

It really had gotten easier, but then my due date crept closer. The day that would remind me of the baby that I’d lost. The baby that I will always remember.

 

“It’s okay to do things for yourself”

Working mom Wednesday

Q&A with Michelle Henderson

I’ve only met Michelle Henderson in person once. She came to the February Femfessionals event after learning about our community from another member’s post on Instagram.

Besides being gorgeous {jealous} and fit {double jealous}, she’s clearly a go-getter. One of the first things I learned about Michelle is that she simultaneously began a new career and welcomed her first baby in the last few months.

I was both awe-struck at her ambition and curious about how she was doing three months in to her new endeavors. Meet new mom turned Realtor in this Week’s Working Mom Wednesday.


Welcome to The Free Mama’s Working Mom Wednesday, Michelle! Tell everyone what you do.

I am a real estate agent with Keyzio – a local startup brokerage. It is such a cool company and they are doing really exciting things in real estate from new technology to challenging the conventional pricing structure {cheaper!} all while offering premium service.

You mentioned this gig was new. What else is on your resume?

I worked at an event planning company buying gifts for incentive trips for the past couple of years. I have also done pharmaceutical sales, interior design and marketing.

What prompted the job change this time?

When I found out I was pregnant, I knew immediately that an 8-5 wasn’t going to make sense for me. My husband travels a ton and I needed way more flexibility and to be able to set my own hours.

If real estate hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing?

A friend, Ashley Kappelman, and I started Damage Control and it is all about the pursuit of wellness with a glass of wine in hand. We post recipes, workouts and, of course, wine on our Instagram account (@damagecontrolblog). We have big dreams to create a wellness experience in Kansas City in the future so stay tuned!

What is a typical day like for you?

Every day is definitely different but generally it involves cooking and eating breakfast with my husband {I love that we both work from home!} and then squeezing in work during nap times on the days that I don’t have childcare. On the days that I do have childcare, I generally will have a client appointment and get a workout in. Oh, and a lot of pumping.

They say it takes a village. Who else helps you with your son?

My husband and I are both from Oklahoma and almost all of our family is back home. I would give anything to have my mom or his mom here. Thankfully we have some cousins in town who are willing to help out and our friends are like family – we would be lost without them!

What has been the best part of motherhood so far?

The gummy smiles! I was just telling my husband that I don’t want him to get teeth because I will miss those smiles!

On a scale of 1 to 10, how sleep deprived are you these days?

Let’s call it a 5. Though I will say it isn’t as bad as I expected it to be. I think I slept more after he was born than at the end of pregnancy. That was a rough few weeks!

What did you not know about parenting that you wish someone had told you?

How hard it would be. People kind of tell you but they talk more about the exhaustion or the fussiness. No one really mentions that you won’t feel like yourself {still waiting!}, the sheer fear you feel when your husband goes out of town for the first time, or that you will question every decision you make, always wondering if it’s the “right” one.

What is your favorite part about being a working mom?

It helps me feel more like my old self, which makes me a better mom.

What’s the hardest part?

The scheduling. It’s a nightmare. Last minute appointments come up all the time and figuring out the logistics can be hard.

What do you hope your child gains from you working?

I hope he learns to go after what he wants out of life, whatever that may be and that it is ok to do things for yourself.

What keeps you sane?

Working out, wine and my husband – he is pretty good at talking me off the ledge.

What one product or service do you love so much you could be a brand ambassador?

Class Pass – genius idea. It allows you to visit most boutique fitness studios in the KC area four times a month for $79. Now if they could just figure out the childcare situation…

What’s your best piece of advice for other working moms?

Hire out what you can so you aren’t spending the limited time with your kids cleaning or doing yard work. And HyVee grocery delivery…game changer!

I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

Having it all to me is working part time – it is definitely the best of both worlds. I am still working on the right balance, but I am headed in the right direction!


 

Whether you’re looking for help with your next home purchase or sitting back and perusing Instagram, be sure to hook up with Michelle at @keyzioinc and @damagecontrolblog.

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

Leap Day: 24 things you should do with your extra 24 hours

Leap Day too busy

How often do you claim to be too busy to take on a new project at work, join another committee, meet up with a friend, indulge in a pedicure, or even just finish simple household chores?

I know I’m guilty of dropping the “I don’t have enough time” excuse more often than I’d care to admit.

But that’s exactly what it is: an excuse. The reality is that we do make time for the things that we value the most at the moment.

What we really mean when we say “I don’t have enough time” is that the thing we’re too busy to do simply isn’t a priority.

We’ve all wished for just a few more hours in the day, but have you ever thought about how you’d spend that time if you actually had it?

Well, every four years we get our wish on February 29. Leap Day quite literally boosts our year with an extra twenty-four hours. Are you making the most of your bonus day?

Here are 24 things I’m going to do today that in a typical 365-day calendar year would probably fall off of my to-do list. {Hint: saying, “I don’t have enough time” isn’t one of them.}

1. Wake up early

If I’ve got an extra 24 hours to get things done, I’m certainly not going to waste it sleeping. As my husband would say, “Carpe Diem.”

2. Meditate

If you know me, being still and quiet takes some serious focus. It means clearing some time in my schedule when I can be by myself. While I rarely create time and space for this, the reality is that it leaves me more calm and more creative.

3. Research a house project

Neither my husband nor myself are super handy when it comes to housework, plus it would take us triple the time it would take a professional. So for today, I’m going to prioritize which project needs to come next {likely freshening up our exterior paint job} and start researching the man {or woman} for the job.

4. Listen to a podcast

I love Podcasts. I think it’s a great way to sneak in some professional development. If I’m honest, I actually do this most days anyway, but I’m typically multitasking while I listen {either cooking dinner or jumping on the elliptical}. Today I’m going to sit back and relax while I check out this new podcast a friend recommended.

5. Read a book

My husband loves to read. He works much longer hours than I do outside of our home. Then he has to pay bills, take out the trash, help with bath time, play with the kids, fix the broken toys, etc. when he gets home. But he always makes time to read. Because for him, it’s a priority. I, on the other hand, am the worst at making a date with a good book. I’m going to snuggle up with a new read {it was a Christmas present I have yet to begin} with my extra 24 hours today.

6. Go out for lunch

I’ve always been guilty of eating lunch at my desk. While this is a habit I will likely return to tomorrow for productivity’s sake, today I’m heading out to a restaurant and fully intend to enjoy my time away from my computer.

7. Put laundry away

Based on conversations with other moms, I’m doing okay in this category. Regardless, my lag time from dryer to laundry basket to dresser drawers is still about 1.8 days. Some families do just fine ditching the drawers altogether, but this mom is going to set aside some time to put the laundry away while the kids are at school.

8. Enjoy a cup of coffee outside

If you live in Kansas City, you know the weather has been absolutely gorgeous lately. With another cold front on the way; however, this morning I’m going to soak up the sunshine with a cup o’ joe on my back deck.

9. Take a bath

I love to take baths, yet I probably only do it a handful of times a year. Maybe it’s because our children use our bathtub and so it’s filled with toys and God knows what else, but today I’m going to light a candle, grab a glass of wine and relax with some bubble bath.

10. Drink a glass of wine

See No. 9. {Sauvignon blanc, please.}

11. Light a candle

See No. 9. {I usually only light a candle when we have company coming over and I want our house to smell cleaner than it really is.}

12. Support a cause

I mailed a gift to a local charity that’s close to my heart. It wasn’t the hands on approach I wish I’d planned for today, but having worked for a not-for-profit, I know that every gift matters.

13. Call a friend

I got a jump start on this over the weekend, but plan to follow up today. If you have a friend who lives in a different city than you, it’s time to pick up the phone and call them. Leave a voicemail. Follow up with an email if you need to. Just remind them how important they are in your life with something a little more personal than an emoji text or Facebook post like.

14. Stretch

Whether I pop in a yoga video or just do some simple stretches, this activity brings me the same calming benefits as meditation while making my body feel stronger and more bendy. While stretching is something I know is good for my body, it almost always gets overlooked.

15. Throw a dance party

Kind of like the podcasts, this is something my family does almost everyday anyway. We love to turn up the music and just be silly together. It gets us moving, interacting with each other and having fun. Every family should throw a dance part every single day!

16. Give a compliment to a stranger

The great thing about making other people feel good about themselves is that it has the powerful ability to make you feel better, too. I plan to fill my extra 24 hours with a lot more warm and fuzzies.

17. Take a different route

Driving down the same road everyday is incredibly mundane. My children’s school, dance class and grandparent’s house are all down the exact same road. Today I’m going to switch it up, even if it takes a bit longer. Plus, it’s actually good for your brain to take different paths!

18. Paint my nails

I don’t typically splurge on pedicures. The problem is that I also rarely take the time to properly self groom. With spring just around the corner, I’m going to spend some time polishing my piggies before someone notices the same coat of paint from the last time I wore sandals.

19. Try something new

I’m not exactly sure where I’m going to squeeze this in today {maybe I’ll order something I’ve never had before at my lunch out today?!}, but getting this extra time seems like the perfect opportunity to try something new.

20. Plan a vacation

I have a jump start on this one. My husband and I are heading to California this May for a close friend’s wedding. The plane tickets have been bought, but that’s about it. Oh, and we’re flying out of a completely different state than we’re flying into. Road trip! Time to start working through some of those details…

21. Learn about my city

Kansas City is an amazing place to live. Because I’m from here, I’ve always told my coastal friends what a great city we have here in the “flyover states,” but the truth is that I’ve only experienced a fraction of what KC has to offer. I’m going to spend some time researching my hometown and plotting our next date night or family outing.

22. Get involved

That’s right. This blog post started with me saying how busy I am, but I’m going to get more involved. Let me explain. My husband and I joined the Kansas City Chamber last fall, and I’ve only been to one event. What a waste! As an overly involved individual, I should know first hand that you get out of any organization what you put into it. It’s time to get involved.

23. Get ahead

I love to-do lists. I’m going to pick something that I hadn’t planned to work on until later this week and tackle it today. Man it feels good to get ahead!

24. Reflect on the day

I’m excited to find out if any of these activities make such an impact today that they stop being something I’m too busy to do moving forward.

Well, I’ve got a lot on my plate so I better get started. I want to know, how do you plan to spend your extra 24 hours today?

“Typical days begin with coffee and end with wine”

moms who work

Q&A with Erin Gregory

I knew all about Erin Gregory before I even met her. The company I was working for at the time partnered with her then-boyfriend’s {now-husband’s} PR firm. He was clearly smitten with this smart woman with a southern accent and clever sense of humor.

When I finally met Erin I could immediately see what all of the fuss was about. She’s genuinely kind, a great people-connector and incredibly talented in all things Communications.

Now that we’re both moms who work, and living on opposite sides of the city, our paths seldom cross these days. {I did babysit her daughter once on New Year’s Eve when I was pregnant with my son and clearly not going anywhere fun. I can also count on bumping into her at least once a year at the Junior League‘s Holiday Mart.}

Maybe it’s her southern charm working its magic on me, but I knew I wanted to reconnect with her through these #workingmomwednesday interviews and inquire about her exciting career and the beautifully busy life she’s built with her family.


Welcome to The Free Mama and thanks for playing along in this week’s Working Mom Wednesday 🙂 Let everyone know who you are and what you do.

I’m a wife, mom, stepmom, daughter and friend and get paid to do what I really enjoy (communications and public relations work) at a cool company – AMC Theatres. I’m manager of corporate communications there.

Before that you worked with your entrepreneur hubby. What was that like?

It was the perfect fit at the right time to have it all, per say – I worked full-time, with a great balance between at-home and meetings with clients, and had lots of flexibility to be able to pick up and drop off my daughter at preschool, spend more time with her in the evenings when she was little and attend all of her preschool celebrations and activities. This balance and flexibility was really important to me when my daughter was so young.

What prompted the job change?

In the 13 years I’ve lived in KC, at whatever level I was at in my career, there have only ever been a couple of openings at AMC; when I saw one, I was immediately intrigued and had to learn more. Turns out, it was an incredible opportunity and great fit.

I’m assuming you’ve become a bit of a movie buff then. What’s the best film you’ve seen lately?

Spotlight had me on the edge of my seat, and the acting was really captivating. I enjoy taking my daughter to every kid movie, and she’s spoiled by AMC’s red recliners.

If PR wasn’t your gig, what do you think you would be doing?

I’d probably be a counseling psychologist.

That doesn’t surprise me at all. You’re so involved in the community and constantly helping people; how do you manage your busy schedule and still find time to give back?

It’s a priority, and one that has shifted up or down at different times in my life. I try to focus on organizations or causes where I can make an impact and that are close to my heart and ones that allow me to work alongside the best and brightest {and most fun} people from whom I can learn.

What is a typical day like for you?

Typical days begin with coffee and end with wine. I’ve gotten back into working out a few mornings a week, which really helps kick-start the day and calibrate my mind. At work, it could be a day focused on projects at my computer or one spent mostly in meetings or catching up with colleagues on ideas and projects. We have family dinner at the table most nights – could be something in the Crock-Pot, or if I’ve not planned ahead stuff from the freezer or cupboard paired with a fruit and vegetable. I also read to my daughter most nights I’m home, a favorite way to wind down and enjoy time with her.

What keeps you sane?

Coffee, wine, exercise, mindless TV, travel, prayer, my friends and most importantly, my husband.

You also have two step children. Tell me how you all spend family time.

With two teenagers and a 5-year-old, this varies from board games or movies at home to afternoons at a park. We like to be on the go and check out all the family-friendly fun KC has to offer, and we like to expose the kids to these things – the Nelson, Plaza Art Fair, KC Parks events like Ethnic Enrichment Festival and Santa’s Wonderland, Mavericks games, etc.

Has there been a mom-moment you’ve missed that you regretted due to work?

Yes, and I think moms just have to accept it’ll happen. I was out of town for a theatre opening that was both exciting and important for me at work, and unavoidably it coincided with my daughter’s preschool Christmas program, and her last one, to boot. Thank goodness for modern technology and sweet friends who took lots of photos so I could feel connected.

It definitely takes a village. Who helps you with your kiddos?

We’re fortunate to have supportive, awesome, hands-on grandparents – sadly, my parents are in Tennessee, but my husband’s live nearby. It also helps to have a great babysitter or two and neighbor-friends who don’t mind helping in a pinch.

What do you hope your daughter takes away from you working?

I hope she sees an example of both hard work and education and seeking the opportunities to apply those in a way that brings personal fulfillment, professional growth and my own contribution to the household income. I also hope she’s gaining her own sense of independence and blazing her own trail in life. I hope she knows that I miss her {most} every day and cherish our “stay-at-home day” playtime.

What’s your best piece of advice for other moms who work?

Do what you want to do – don’t let someone else’s choices, opinions or norms dictate yours. A one-size-fits-all approach for what is important or functional for one mom or family isn’t reasonable.

I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

Good question! I trust my own female intuition and mom instincts in trying to achieve balance. Sometimes that balance feels out of whack – too much time spent here or needing more time there…I think needs and priorities shift as far as how big each piece of the “it all” pie goes. We might not have to make sacrifices, but we do have to make choices and to own those choices.


Don’t just take Erin’s daughter’s word for it, you too can experience the cozy red recliners at an AMC near you.

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.