Sunday, July 19, 2015

14 AWESOME THINGS ABOUT SUMMER


I mean, really.

How can I narrow this list down to just 14 items when there are, like, 89?

Because I know you've got sh!t to do, and you don't have time to read a list that long.

So, in the name of brevity, I give you these...


1. BUBBLE MACHINES
How genius is this thing?!? (We have the Gazillion Bubble Ultimate Bubble Typhoon, but the one pictured here is the Gazillion Bubble Machine.) I like them both, but I give our Bubble Typhoon the edge because I think it holds a tad more bubble solution and comes with a tray to trap and hold the excess solution that spills over. But, honestly, I'm all for any contraption that spares me the effort of having to dip a wand into a tiny bottle 97 times...all for my children's amusement.


2. CHERRIES
I can't help myself with these. But, hey, it's better than inhaling a bag of artificial candy -- and cherries are arguably just as sweet. And they are chock-full of antioxidants, so you can't even feel guilty -- I know I didn't when I polished off that bowl on the right as a late-night snack. (The pic on the left is of a cherry tree around the corner from our home.)


3. BIKE RIDES
There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- like the feeling of wind in your face as you cruise your neighborhood (or local bike trail) on the seat of a bicycle. Talk about feeling like a kid again. This year, The Hubs and I bought new bikes and a wagon to hitch to his so that he can pull Thing One and Thing Two. I would ride all evening if I could.


4. FRISBEES
I had actually forgotten how fun this round chunk of plastic could be. The Hubs, the kids, and I form a circle in our yard and simply throw it back and forth to each other -- and it's really, really fun!


5. ICE CREAM
I'm really an ice cream purist: Just give me vanilla soft serve, with cookie dough or Reese's Peanut Buttercup mixed in, and topped with rainbow sprinkles and whipped cream. You can't tell by the pic above, but that's what I'm devouring at a place called Jersey Freeze in The Hub's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey.


6. POPSICLES
Few words are as synonymous with summer as Popsicle. (Especially as far as kids are concerned.)


7. PLAYGROUNDS
We are very fortunate to live in an area where playgrounds are aplenty, but we actually only frequent the same three. And it never ceases to amaze me how S and K squeal like little piggies each and every time we pull into the parking lot. They think they are getting the treat...but actually it's me because no feeling compares to seeing my children genuinely happy, particularly over something so simple and innocent.


8. YOGA OUTDOORS
Few things compare to using the earth as your yoga mat. And when your kids want to practice with you, all the better! Here we are in Crab Pose. (And notice that K is keeping the Frisbee nearby.)

9. FARMERS MARKETS
We go to our town's Farmers Market every week -- and it's held at one of the parks we frequent, so that's a bonus. As cliche as it sounds, there's just something about conversing with the farmer who grew the foods that will serve as the staples of our meals for the next seven days.


10. VOLUNTEERING
I think the summertime inherently presents even more opportunities to get out and give of yourself. Maybe it's the warmer weather; maybe it's the fact that a feeling of "holiday" resides in the air; and because of the two aforementioned items, everyone, for the most part seems to be in a better mood than usual. Regardless, all of the above makes volunteering even easier. Every summer The Hubs supports Meet Up and Eat Up, a collaborative movement led by the United Way which ensures that every child has access to nutritious meals 365 days a year, three times a day (top pic). And, of late, the kids and I teach "Mommy and Me" yoga at a nearby learning center (bottom pic.) And we are ALL having a blast!


11. FAIRS
Anytime I can find elephant ears, jerky mechanical rides, and striped tents in one place, I tend to have a lot of fun. And if I Dora the Explorer is there, then you know it's going to be off the hook.


12. WALKS
We walk our neighborhood all year 'round, come sun or snow. And, living in Michigan, we certainly appreciate all four seasons. But summertime walks before K's nap time and again before both kids go to bed for the night are the best.


13. THE FOURTH OF JULY
No matter what religion you adhere to; no matter what ethnicity you are; no matter your political beliefs...if you reside in the United States of America, then you have a reason to celebrate -- and appreciate -- the freedoms found here. Period. Few things present the opportunity to unite us as a nation like the Fourth of July. And I'm not talking about fireworks or barbecue, which, don't get me wrong, are awesome. I am, however, talking about taking a moment to reflect on the sacrifices the men and women (past and present) have made to make this country what it is today. Here's Old Glory hanging from our front porch...


14. THE BEACH
The smell of salt water...the feeling of sand between your toes...the soothing sound of water washing ashore. What's not to like about being at the beach? Okay, sharks. But other than that, I got nothin'.



BONUS: SUNGLASSES
Alright, so I very well couldn't end this list with 14, and how could sunglasses -- the staple of summer wardrobes everywhere -- not be mentioned? I know people wear them all year because, to be fair, the sun shines all year. But I get the most mileage out of my collection of shades during the warmer months. My (three pair of) Ray Bans are my faves...



We hope you're enjoying summer. We certainly are! In fact, we're about to take off...yes, again. (I know: we just returned from the Jersey Shore.) But, hey, summer here in Michigan goes by in a flash, so we've gotta grab this baby by the horns. So I'm taking another tiny hiatus and will return with a brand spanking new blog post on Monday, August 3. And you won't want to miss this one! It's something everyone can benefit from.
In the meantime, check us out on Instagram and Facebook...where the party never stops! 
Thank you for reading. <3

Sunday, July 12, 2015

ICKY, YUCKY, MOLDY RUBBER DUCKIES

I thought I was seeing things.

Something was definitely wrong with the rubber duckie that was -- gasp! -- cruising around my precious offspring as they splashed about in the warm, bubble-filled bath that I had just drawn for them.

I plucked it out of the tub so as to take a closer look.

Was that...

Could it be?

Yes.

The inside of the rubber duckie was literally COVERED in mold.

I swear, just typing this makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

And the problem was rather complex: This wasn't just any rubber duckie. This particular rubber duckie wore a helmet and sports jersey and had a football nestled under his right wing. 

In other words, it was the best rubber duckie in the batch; the favorite. 

So I couldn't just throw him away. (Spoiler alert: I did.)

But, initially, I didn't know how I could save him, so I Googled moldy rubber duckies. (File that under "Things you never thought you'd search back when you were young, single, and childless.")

What came up were all the precautionary steps one should take so that rubber duckies don't become moldy in the first place, such as clean bath toys weekly in one part hot water, one part distilled vinegar and a few drops of dish soap. (Apparently, vinegar dissolves soap scum and dish soap removes dirt.) Soak the toys for 10 minutes, and then rinse them in warm water and let dry completely.

Yeah, like I'd remember to do that every seven days.

Plus, now that it's summer, and my kids spend the time that they aren't bathing inside a kiddie pool, well, let's just say our collection of rubber duckies has grown into a full-blown army.

No, I'm not even going to lie and say that I'm going to take the time to soak and clean those rubber suckers every week.

The next "solution" I discovered involved squeezing the already-moldy rubber duckie to suck up distilled vinegar and leave the vinegar inside over night, and then repeat.  

Well, obviously, the person who wrote that hadn't seen our rubber duckies, which carried more mold than a bag of month-old bread.

And then I found the best remedy of all: Take a glue gun to the hole of your brand-new rubber duckie and plug that thing right up so that water never enters in the first place.

Crisis averted.

Now, of course, all I have to do is troll Amazon.com for another football-themed rubber duckie...

Monday, July 6, 2015

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY...TO US!

Eight years ago this week I married my best friend.

And while it wasn't that long ago, I can still remember -- and with laser-precision accuracy, I might add -- the feeling of butterflies in my stomach as I unsuccessfully tried to go to sleep the night before our wedding.

A million and one things were going through my mind at that time, and, among them, was the awareness that I had never been so sure of something in all of my life.

At the risk of sounding totally and completely cliche-ish and cheesey, our wedding day remains the greatest I have ever experienced, aside from the birth of our two children. (Sidebar for those of you who are new to this blog, please click here if you'd like to read more details about our Big Day.)

Thank you for being my partner, my consummate supporter, the yin to my yang, and the one who laughs at (nearly) all of my jokes. (The latter remains extremely important!)

I love you.

Happy Anniversary to us!






Sunday, June 28, 2015

THE CASE FOR MOMMY & ME YOGA

I had been practicing yoga with my son, Scotty (age three), for about four months when my husband and I took him to the barber to receive his first professional haircut.

(Those botch jobs I had been doing on him with a pair of dull shears were no longer passing muster; but that’s a different story for a another day.)

The point here is that the mere notion of having to sit still while getting his curls chopped by a stranger scared the bejesus out of him – so you can only imagine how bad things got when Scotty heard the buzz and felt the vibration of the electric clippers.

It was bad; really bad: tears, incoherent pleading for it to stop. The whole nine.

And then I told Scotty to close his eyes…and breathe.

I told him – quite pointedly – to breathe just like we do when we practice yoga; to simply focus on his breath as he counts to ten and then back down to one again.

It took a minute. But, no lie, I could literally feel the muscles in his arms relax and release as I held his clammy hands in mine.

When Scotty was done and climbed down from the chair, I told him how proud I was of him for doing yoga just now.

He looked at me, puzzled and confused. “I got a haircut,” he said.

“You got a haircut while you were doing yoga,” I corrected. “Remember how Mommy told you that you can do yoga anywhere, and that it can give you strength when things get tough? It’s true.”

I don’t believe Scotty understood the full magnitude of my words.

But he will, someday.

Contrary to what we may have learned or come to believe, yoga isn’t just about twisting like a pretzel, or looking good in our workout pants – or our bathing suit, for that matter.

The purpose of yoga is to quiet our mind, to realize that all beings are connected, and, ultimately, to find peace and awareness within ourselves.

What greater gift could we bestow upon our children?

But, wait. There’s more. 

Children and parents stand to gain a ton from practicing yoga together. It’s an excellent way to bond, for one; and, secondly, children are impressionable, so the act of us doing yoga with them reiterates the belief that physical exercise is important and that we also value the mind-body connection.

The parent doesn’t even have to be an experienced (or flexible) practitioner of yoga!

None of that even matters.

The mere fact that you are accepting of your body – regardless of what it can or cannot do that day – and you choose to get on the mat and practice yoga anyway is golden.

What if some children copy what they see, and others won’t?

It’s okay.

What if your baby cries or needs to be changed or fed during class?

It’s no biggie. The class is designed to accommodate these types of situations.

What if your kid finds the mat itself to be the main draw, or, worse, your attempt to keep your child on the mat makes you feel as if you’re herding cats?

Keep coming to class anyway.

This is all new to them, and for many kids, yoga is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced.

There’s no rush to “master” yoga, and this isn’t a competition.

We all have a lifetime to learn and experience all the wonderful benefits yoga has to offer.

Some of those benefits can include better sleep; a more “settled” behavior with less extreme ups and downs; stimulation of bodily systems, including digestive and nervous systems; laying a foundation for future positive social relations between parent and child over the early years and beyond; and relaxation.

And, oh, yeah, you may just find yourself in need of a smaller pair of pants if you keep coming to class: Make no mistake about it, you will feel the burn.

But in a good way.

Plus “Mommy and Me” yoga classes are a great way to meet other moms with kids around the same age in your community, which can often translate into play dates outside of workouts.

But, to me, the greatest boon to establishing a yoga practice with your child is instilling in them the belief that there is tremendous value and unlimited benefits to harnessing the power of your own breath.

And while yoga certainly is the conduit, the truth is, the power was deep inside us all along.

Yoga only helps us connect to it.

I look forward to taking this fun, exciting journey with you and your children, and hope you’ll consider attending our “Mommy & Me” yoga sessions. 

Join us every Monday at Starfish Early Learning Center -- 30000 Hiveley, Inkster, MI 48141 -- every Monday from 10 a.m. -- 10:30 a.m. Registration is required; please call (734) 727-3104. (Limit two children per mother, please.)

Let’s make magic!

See you on the mat.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

TACKLING FATHERHOOD

Before my husband Scott became a father, he lived a very different life.

He was a Detroit Lions offensive lineman who blocked for Barry Sanders – and used his hands to tackle 300-plus-pound men in the process; next, he used his hands to write out plays and lesson plans while serving as a varsity head football coach and high school substitute teacher; and then, while wielding the sharpest of knives, he used his hands to chop Fuji apples as a New York City culinary student who interned at the renowned BONDST sushi restaurant.

But now Scott uses his hands to whip up his signature oatmeal for our toddler daughter (Kennedy, 1) every morning and help our preschooler son (Scotty, Jr., 3) learn how to put on his own shoes.

Here, I put Scott on the hot seat by asking him about discipline, the dreams he has for our son and daughter, and, of course, how the F-word – football – plays a role in fatherhood.

ME: Nearly four years ago, our lives changed when our son entered the world, then our daughter arrived two years later, and you were there to witness both births. What were those experiences like? And were they what you’d thought they’d be?
THE HUBS: It’s an experience that you can never quite imagine until you actually go through it…like running out on an NFL field on game day for the first time. It was amazing to finally have what we anticipated for so long.

ME: Think back to Scotty’s homecoming and those first few nights. The sleep deprivation, the crazy schedule or lack thereof…
THE HUBS: It was a relief, actually, to finally have him home with us. For me, the lack of sleep was more of an issue before he arrived. I would always hope that he would be okay and that the delivery would go smoothly for him and you. Once he was here, I was relieved. You, however, would have a different take on the sleep deprivation because you were the one up at 2 a.m. nursing him throughout the night since Scotty wasn’t ready to eat my cooking just yet.

ME: Time has flown so fast, and I can’t believe our first child is already in preschool. What are you most looking forward to doing with him when he’s older?
THE HUBS: I most look forward to playing football with him in our backyard, seeing him full of life and energy. Watching him run, jump, and play the way I did at his age.

ME: Speaking of football, do you have any expectations for Scotty? I mean, having a former NFL player for a dad can be a bit intimidating. How do you plan to guide him without putting pressure on him?
THE HUBS: First and foremost, I want him to experience all the life skills football has to offer, like teamwork, commitment, and goal-setting…all of which lead to triumph. When people think of triumph, they think of winning the game. But to me, triumph is being the best person you can be, and that’s all I expect from Scotty. Nothing more, nothing less.

ME: Let’s switch gears for a moment and talk about Kennedy. There is often this assumption that one’s approach to parenthood differs with boys and girls. What’s your take on this?
THE HUBS: I don’t think there’s really much of a difference – I just see them as my little ones, at least right now, because they’re so young. I just want to establish a solid foundation of love, respect, and honesty.  But, in time, I think the differences will start to reveal themselves: Young girls have certain needs, and young boys have unique challenges as well. But right now, I’m enjoying this stage and approaching them both in the same way.

ME: Fathers of daughters often joke about their inability to embrace the mere prospect of their daughters becoming old enough to date. But you seem unphased. Why?
THE HUBS: Why fight it? You can’t stop it. I might as well embrace it and try to help her make the right decisions to find that right person. And the best way I can do that is to show both Kennedy and Scotty what a man should do, and they’ll see how I treat you, their mother. I know I have said to you – in jest – that Kennedy won’t be able to date until she’s 50 or 60. But truthfully, I’m not worried. As long as I’m there for her to provide the proper guidance and advice, and I make sure that my relationship with her is solid and strong. That’s the most important thing.

ME: Let’s talk about what can be a hot-button issue for some parents: discipline. You’re a big softy for both of them now, but are you prepared to play the tough guy one day?
THE HUBS: Absolutely. As their father, I am their life coach, and coaching is a job that forces you to practice tough love.

ME: You are the oldest of seven and have nine nieces and nephews, so you’re seasoned when it comes to being familiar with kids. But how is it different raising your own?
THE HUBS: When they’re yours you can’t sugar them up and give them back to their parents…you are the parent! Not that I condone feeding kids too much sugar.

ME: That’s the perfect segue to my next question. How do you plan to instill in Scotty and Kennedy the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
THE HUBS: As a chef and former athlete, I know firsthand that eating well and exercising leads to productivity. I plan on preparing meals that are fresh, healthy, and, of course, full of flavor – for all of us.

ME: It’s been years since you played in the NFL, but you still remain very much involved in football at the youth level (as a USA Football Heads Up ambassador) and at the professional level (as the secretary of the Detroit chapter of the NFL Alumni Association) – and you continue to serve the community through both venues. Why do you feel this is necessary as a father?
THE HUBS: I want to lead by example and demonstrate to Scotty and Kennedy the importance of giving back. I want to show them the right way to do things. I was fortunate to have played in the NFL for six years, and if I can use that to better the lives of others and help them deal with hardships and challenges – or just put a smile on someone’s face – then why not? There’s a quote from the late Frank Gansz, my special teams coach at the Detroit Lions, that I’ll never forget it – and it applies here: What you keep, you lose; but what you give will grow.”
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