Parenting Styles- My Toolbox. What's in Yours?

Since we're in the three year-old stage, my relationship with Little Miss Thang has been, at times...rocky. Confession: some days I'm not having fun. Some days it feels like all I do is bark orders and holler when she doesn't comply- and not like the good kind of holler, like 'holla!' but like, yell.

When she was two, we had a lot more fun. Tantrums weren't as common, she went along with whatever we had to do and she seemed to like her Mama a lot more. I liked me a lot more too. Can you relate?
I know that I'm not alone in this. I also know that I had to devise a plan to keep my sanity- and hers. I followed an example from my nephew's school's reward system.

So first, I got a Responsibility Chart from Melissa and Doug (do they make anything I don't love?!). This thing is awesome. It 's magnetic, comes with tons of magnets and has so many chores and different rows for different tasks.
Our system right now is very simple: Stella starts out with five smiley faces each day. If she misbehaves, I give one warning before taking one away. If she still has all five smiley faces at the end of the day, she gets something out of the 'treat bag.' This consists of a bunch of little toys I picked up from the dollar bins (I don't reward with candy and sweets because I don't want to send the wrong message about food, but use whatever works for you). BUT, if she doesn't have all five at the end of the day, guess what? She gets nothin'. We then talk about how and why she missed out and how she can do better tomorrow.

Oh yeah, the bottom portion is a dry erase board- just make sure they have no access to regular markers.

She has grown to really love the thrill of picking something out of the 'treat bag.' I know it sounds silly to threaten 'taking away a smiley face,' but she genuinely gets very upset often replying with, "No, you not take away!"

It took her awhile to earn all of her smiley faces. In fact, after the first four days, I had to act like she had in order for her to see what she was working towards. But after that first time of picking something out of the bag (and getting a peek of what was in there) it was like she had her 'ah-ha' moment. It started to click for her. (Order yours here.)

Some of the different task magnets that it comes with- even blank ones so you can write in whatever suits you best. 

This seems to really work for us, but the key is FOLLOWING THROUGH. In fact, that's starting to become my #1 asset as her Mama. I find that it's very difficult, especially if they're screaming and crying in protest but I know how important it is for me to keep my word. I've even turned into that Mama that has turned the car around- and I wish I was kidding. But you know what? When I threaten, she believes. Now that deserves a 'holla!'

So, what works for you? Is there something that's been particularly effective in getting your kids to be better listeners?? Please tell us!
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In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I've decided to refurbish an old post of mine that talks about breasts- in terms of #breastfeeding your infant and toddler. I love encouraging mothers to breast-feed and it's no secret that the advantages for mother and child are endless. But did you also know that it lowers moms chance of breast cancer, hypertension and heart attacks? It's such an amazing thing!
I will now share a small tip on how #breastfeeding in public was a little easier with a little help from a fashionable scarf.
**(By the way, this is a humorous and fun post as well as informational, but don't EVER tell a woman to cover up while breast-feeding)

OK, those of you who nurse have all been there: you're in a busy public place and your kiddo has to eat. So, you have one of those "nursing wraps" that look like a glorified apron, or you get a blanket and tuck one of the corners into your bra strap so now your bra is showing instead of your boob- awkward. But how well do these work? If you're like me, they do not work well AT ALL. A good friend of mine gave me a Circle Scarf from American Apparel. I'm obsessed with this thing! In my quest to look chic AND comfortable, I find myself wearing it almost everyday, even in my pajamas. This one is a super soft cotton blend, made in Los Angeles and can be worn in about 12 different ways! This thing is so versatile and easy to use.

Here's the deal though: because its so stretchy, its truly a wonderful and chic nursing wrap. You just put the babe in the circle while it wraps around your back, and voila! The best part: it's not overbearing by covering the babe up but rather cradles them and secures them to your body (babes don't like to be covered or have a blanket over their head when they're nursing- can you blame them??). This scarf is so large in size and so stretchy that any size child or mother will both fit. It is so convenient because you do not have to remember to pack a blanket or whatever else you usually use, because you'll already be wearing it.

It comes in plenty of different colors and patterns, but I have a neutral color so it goes with almost anything. This can be worn with a dress and boots, a t-shirt and jeans with flats, I even wear it with my workout clothes on my way to the gym. Do yourself the favor and get one of these (whether you're breast-feeding or not), you will be so glad you did.
And of course, you will definitely look like one chic Mama- guaranteed!

Get yours here.
Photo courtesy of AmericanApparel.com

As always, and if you can, #BreastIsBest


Rants, Raves and Reviews (iOS 7 and more)

All right, I've done this once before and I find it therapeutic to get some things off my chest. So here goes:

Recently I was skimming through the September issue of Good Housekeeping. I was disturbed by a page that I saw- it was all about earning the Good Housekeeping 'seal.' Cool, right? Well, Kerri Russell was highlighted for getting her six year-old to brush his teeth twice a day. Seriously. But, it gets worse- underneath her, someone else was highlighted. Her name is Denene Yates and she runs a safe house for victims of sex trafficking and prostitution. It's called the Safe House of Hope. She opened a new location in Baltimore for an area that is known for this heinous act. It's ran by her and about 50 volunteers, and they helped over 1,000 women last year alone. Amazing, right??
Now my question is what person is more deserving of 2/3 of a page? And a HUGE picture? Exactly. Apparently, GH doesn't feel that way. I give them credit for highlighting Denene at all, but come on.

Is this proportionate??

Moving on, what does everyone think of the new iOS 7? I'm sort of ambivalent. It has some cool features I suppose. To be honest, I probably haven't even explored all of them yet. It was something I knew very little about but one of my students suggest I do it. In fact, he got up in the middle of class and grabbed my phone and started the download himself! It's totally fine but things look very different, no? I gotta say that I think we're just more opposed to change than the actual change. 
To my surprise, I find that it looks a lot like a Microsoft product. It's very colorful, has a lot of geometric shapes... I'm just sayin'. Could Apple finally be trying to emulate (gulp) someone else???

Photo courtesy of BGR.com

Also, I just LOVE fall. And it has certainly arrived. I went out and bought a couple of cans of pumpkin to start playing with the gazillion recipes on Pinterest. Because I'm a coffee addict, I had to make a healthy, vegan, pumpkin spiced creamer. Here's the recipe, but be sure to check out all of the fall recipes I pinned up. I've been trying a lot of them, so I'll let you know of any that stick out and you do the same, OK??

What are your thoughts about all of this hoopla?? I'd love to know, leave a comment!

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Do you Practice What you Preach?

I spend most of my days telling my daughter what to do. I'm not bossy, it's just that she's three and as her Mama it's my job.

It got me thinking, for all the preaching that I do, am I practicing enough??

For instance, every time we wash her hands, we sing this little diddy. I make her turn off the water and we take our time singing. This way, she'll thoroughly wash her hands. But, I found that when I washed my own hands, I did a quickie: I swished some soap around and rinsed off immediately.
*Disclaimer: I'm not gross, you know what I'm talking about. Seriously, do you wash your hands the recommended twenty seconds  EVERY time?

I got to thinking about how many other areas in my life I'm trying to be a good example for her and failing?
Bottom line: I don't think it's very helpful to either of us for me to be saying one thing and doing another. These lessons and values that I'm hoping to instill in her, I want for myself as well.

I'm happy to report that after this mini revelation I'm way more conscience to do the right thing. Hey, what can I say, my Mama taught me well. Now hopefully, my baby will say the same thing one day!

So how about you- do you think you do a good job of this?

Enjoy some of my other posts that touch on morals and values:
1- Elf on the Shelf
2- Teen Post
3- Following Your Dreams

By the way, to teach your kiddos that song, here is the clear and concise version :)


Should Women Change Their Last Name When They Get Married??

"What's in a name?" 
I don't know the answer to that, but I always wanted to quote Shakespeare.

We ran out of cheese for her middle and last name... oh boy.
Now, I have a confession to make: I haven't changed my name after over two years of being married. I know, horrible, right? Before you judge, hear me out.

It's not that I don't like my hubby's last name. It's lovely. It's just that I reaaaaaalllllllyyyyyy like mine. I mean, it's the name I've had well, forever. It's me. It's my family. And I can't seem to give it up.
Here's why:

A-  My dad passed a couple of years ago and I feel like I'm letting him go if I let my name go. Is that strange? I was very close with him. To just give up my name, his name, would be painful.

B- I'm Italian and my last name is very ethnic. Not like, one-of-my-grandma's-was-Italian, Italian but like, 100%-full-blooded-Italian. And although my hubby is Italian too, his last name doesn't indicate that. I love that my last name oozes my heritage.

C- I don't know if I should just hyphenate, or... everyone says to just move my last name to my middle name, but who actually calls you by your entire name? I'm afraid it will disappear there.

I definitely believe that when two people marry, they become one. I'm all for that, I really am. I'm just having a difficult time shedding my former self. Am I looking at it wrong or do I have to shelf my old self? Not to get Sex and the City on ya, but I am wondering...

My hubby doesn't have much empathy for my quandary. In fact, it down right annoys him because it gets in the way sometimes. There's constant explanation of "yes we're married, I just haven't changed my name yet." To which someone always asks "Oh! Newlyweds?" Can we say awkward? I wish I had a better answer for them. I'd like to know who decided that women give up their last name anyways!

**A little background info on this matter- this all came about because at my cousin's wedding shower this past weekend, someone pointed out that me and my two aunts I was sitting in between hadn't changed our names. My sister hasn't either. It runs in the familia! Hey, at least I'm in good company. And yes, Stella has her daddy's last name, but my last name is her middle name. Does this sound complicated or what?

So what do you all think? Am I totally crazy for feeling this way? What do you think I should do? Comments welcome!


The Big 3-0 Celebration!

A couple of weeks ago I posted this picture as a sneak peek of my 30th birthday celebration:

 Well, I promised a blog with more pictures to follow, and here it is. Ta-da! (Hey, better late than never, right?)

I was feeling a bit nostalgic this year so I decided to go back to a place we used to go allll the time growing up. And a lot of my family still goes there every year- Summersville Lake in WV. I grew up boating and camping there and created some of my best memories there. I was stoked to create more! We invited a few friends and some of our family just happened to be there- a very happy coincidence!

Here are some of the highlights in pictures:

When we arrived, priority #1 was getting the campsite set up so we could get on the lake. Ryan is very proud of himself for putting this together, can you tell?

What was super funny was that my cousin and her fiance didn't quite measure how big their tent was versus how big their air mattress was... oh boy...

Can you guess which one of them was actually supposed to sleep in that tent? That's right- the angry one!

Below was the solution they came up with. That is, after the tent got extremely wet later that day and night #1 was spent in their car...oops. It was not their weekend with a tent. But they were good sports about it all :)

After we got all of the hard work out of the way, it was boat time! How beautiful is this scenery?

A big part of going to this destination is the cliffs and coves you can swim in and around. And dive off of if you so dare...

This was one of the smallest ones, we decided to do a group jump. Ryan and I are on the right side. He ended up smacking arms with my cousin next to him. Ouch!

After a little jumping I decided to slalom ski (skiing on one ski). After multiple tries, I was getting a lot of flack from the peeps in the boat (much to my dismay). Feeling defeated (and a wee irritated), I tried the next morning and voila! Could I use anymore parentheses in this short paragraph? (Yes, probably).

We had so much fun!

Last but not least, one of my favorite pictures of the whole weekend. These are my two younger cousins. How beautiful are they?!

And there you have it. Family, good friends and a gorgeous lake- what more can a girl ask for??

P.S. The answer to the first picture is: we jumped! I know the answer was just killing you...


Why Everyone Needs a Business Card (I don't care what ya do)

Many, many moons ago I was a bartender (exactly how many moons isn't important). One night in an attempt to set up a date, a guy gave me his business card that actually caught my eye...

Underneath his name read: "Director of Shenanigans." Needless to say, I was impressed that he created his own job title that was, well... creative. Clearly, this guy had no actual 'career title,' but he wanted to give something to people so they'd remember him. And, it worked (Well, kind of. I never called him but for plenty of other reasons). But, a lesson can be learned from this drunkard:
Do you ever find yourself striking up conversation with other people (or Mamas) at the park, gym or wherever? You're getting along, the kiddos are getting along and everything seems to click? Ever feel like you could totally put up with them for a play date, heck even a martini?  It's times like these where a business card would really come in handy. It's less invasive than asking someone to put your information in their phone or worse, asking them for theirs. You can hand them your card and leave the ball in their court.

Here's mine (sans cell #). What do you think of it?
You may be a little hesitant to make up business cards because you feel like you don't have a job that constitutes needing one, but being a Mama makes you a VIP. Your job title can be the "Director of Shenanigans," the "CEO of my Circus," the "Producer of all Things Wacky" or whatever you can think of.

After all, Mama needs her playtime too- with or without the kiddos. So go on and put yourself out there! You'll be glad ya did. Promise.
For advice and tips on meeting people, click here.

P.S. Vistaprint.com has some good ones that are inexpensive and are sure to make you shine :)

If your main job is a SAHM, what would your title be???  I'd love to know, leave a comment below!

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Stella's Three! (holy cow)

So my baby just turned three! I still can't believe it, I mean, where does the time go? Seriously, I want to know...

One of the things that was very important to me was making sure this girl had a proper birthday cake. And by that I mean, healthy, no sugar and vegan. I found just what I was looking for here! (Awesome blog I highly recommend, by the way!)

It was a hit, doesn't it look delish??

We had a wonderful celebration at my Grandma's house. She hosted, she cooked and she wouldn't let me do much to help! When I was cleaning all the pots and pans my Grandma thanked me for doing so, to which I replied, "Don't thank me, you did so much, how could I make you do the dishes?!" In true Grandma style she said, "What are grandma's for?" Whoa, how lucky are we?

Enjoy some pics from our eventful weekend:

Opening presents with her big cousin! Doesn't she look thrilled? Terrible three's, here we come :)

Her Nonna sent her a cape! She loved it, can ya tell?

Mama and baby (yes, she is still a baby. Or at least, my baby) at her birthday lunch. We had to keep busy while waiting for our food somehow...

What an awesome few days. We're so blessed to have such wonderful family and friends to celebrate with. Cheers everyone! *ting*

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3 Things The Movie Business Has Taught Me About Motherhood

I've been so out of touch lately. Not just as a blogger but in other areas of my life as well (not to worry, I've still been shaving my legs).

My work schedule has gotten a lot trickier since leaving the movie studio and working in a different side of production. My most recent venture has been working on a super hero movie that's sure to be a hit. Look for it in the spring of next year.
But, I digress. The point is, it's the reason I've been away so long. And the reason I am home at times too.
In any case, my adventures in the film/TV industry over the last couple of years has taught me a thing or two about being a Mama. You see, it's full of long hours, demanding schedules and being away from your family just to name a few. Did I mention I work long hours?

Little by little, this is what I'm learning:
  1. They're absolutely fine WITHOUT me- I had to give up the fact that work took me out of my home and away from my family more than I wanted. And you know what? It didn't burn down to the ground A few mishaps, sure, but nothing we couldn't work through. For some, this is a bitter pill to swallow. Knowing that your family functions without you should make you feel better, not worse. All of the little things you do on a daily basis to make their routine operate smoothly probably go unnoticed at this point in time. They'll find another way to handle that same situation and it may be different than yours, but it still works- which brings me to my next point!
  2. Give up the control- You can't be there to see every little thing that happens so get over it. Are they watching too much TV? Eating junk food? And the dreaded, "what are they wearing to school?!" This one was a tough one for me. Sometimes I can be a little more strict than my husband on these points. But I had learn to compromise during this show. I'm still working on it! But when I came home to see my house in disarray, I had to let it go...Sure, i had to start drinking heavily, but whatever works! Totally joking, of course :)
  3. It seems more glamorous than it really is- Sure there's great catering, celebrities and the potential to make great money but these can be misleading. Realistically, it's full of some boredom, some hard work, traveling, working nights and being able to stand around in the rain if need be! The glitz that's attracted to this industry tends to suck people in. But at the end of the day, you have to keep your eye on what's really important- and that's the family. With each new show comes the assessment: is this really worth being away from home for? Often yes, but at times, no. You have to have the discernment.

I think any working Mama can relate to this post- how do you assess your work situation?? Please share your knowledge in the comments below!

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Girls Found Alive and Well After 10 Years!

So I'm sure all of you have heard about the three girls who disappeared ten years ago but were just found alive and well. What an amazing ending to a horrific story! Unfortunately, it's not the ending we're used to hearing.

This story hits close to home for me. Not only did this happen in the city I live in, but how awful for them and their families that these girls were taken and held against their own will. It makes me sick to think about it! It also makes me a little scared as well.

I wanted to share a couple of apps and helpful tips to keep all you Mama's safe:

Attack Alarm SMS. This app seems very helpful. Here's the lowdown on it:
Not only is it a big red button that you can tap on and a loud alarm goes off scaring potential attackers, but there's more. You can also pick any number of people in your contact list to have a personalized message sent straight to their phone (my message reads: Help! I'm being attacked!). I picked three people to send this to in case the unthinkable happens. Not only that, but it will also allow for GPS tracking to go to their phones so that they will know your whereabouts. How cool is that?

Walk Me Home. Again, very cool and you don't just need an iPhone for this one. This allows you to notify people of your choosing when you will be "walking home" alone (or feel worried for any reason). It tells them your where you are and it notifies them when you reach your destination. If at any point during your 'walk' you feel threatened at the touch of a button they will be notified. It seems well worth it.

These are just the apps I have, but this website gives a list of the top 5 apps every woman should have- a must read!

Also, for all of you who have kiddos with phones, please check out this website about keeping the family safe. It seems very helpful, there is also an app that helps tackle tough questions like what your kiddo should do if someone offers them a ride, etc.

Of course, I recommend mace to just about everyone. It's very powerful and it'll fit right on your key chain. Self defense classes are also something every woman should look into. The R.A.D. website will help you find some in your area.

Another thing that every Mama should do is talk to your kiddos about strangers. What they are, what they aren't and what they can do in case the unthinkable arises. Preschool age is a great time to start. There are a lot of resources to guide you in what to say and how to say it. Educate yourself!

I liked these ones:
National Crime Prevention Council
Baby Center

Share your tips and encourage one another in the comments below. Knowledge is power!
Please consider giving to the Courage Fund set up in the girl's honor.

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